Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Friday, November 23, 2012
History-telling banners still on
After third review, City Commission approves 2013 project

Take three.


That's how the City Commission has dealt with a nonprofit's proposal to post 100 banners, each bearing a blurb of Key West history, on some of the island's most sought-after property.

In a third and seemingly final decision, the commission Tuesday approved the year-long banner project designed as the Southernmost city's role in the 2013 statewide celebration of the 500th anniversary of Ponce de Leon's discovery of Florida.

The banners, a project by local nonprofit Historic Markers, have been on their way for months now although the Old Town locations have been tweaked a bit. No more Truman Avenue, given the ongoing construction.

Instead, 25 banners are set to hang from street light poles on Mallory Square, and beneath the 20 lights on Whitehead, Front, and Greene. The rest will decorate Duval Street.

They go up the second week of January and staying put until late November.

Historic Markers has agreed to take down the banners during Fantasy Fest week in October, and if a hurricane warning is issued for the island.

Key West outlaws banners strung along public property unless the commission makes an exception.

Bruce Neff, a Key West history devotee who founded Historic Markers, now has to go before the Historic Architectural Review Commission (HARC) for approval in order to make the banners happen.

A sticking point for City Commissioners on Tuesday was exactly where the name of each banners' "sponsor," was going to appear.

The nonprofit had originally placed the sponsor name at the tail end of the banner, but recently pushed it up to the banner's center.

"I'd rather have the history first and the person that sponsored it last," said Commissioner Teri Johnston.

And after a 35-minute discussion over exactly where the names of paid sponsors can go on the banners, a unanimous commission vote quashed any ideas to alter the designs.

Commissioners were displeased with the sponsors' names rising up on the banners but didn't question draping them along Whitehead, Front and Greene streets.

"I'd be okay changing locations, but not okay with changing the design," said City Commissioner Tony Yaniz. "It's fine to have a sponsor, but that should be the last thing you see."

At two-feet tall, each banner is 29-inches wide at the top and 20-inches wide at the bottom.

Each banner is divided into thirds, with a Historic Key West logo at the top, then the brief history lesson dubbed the "nugget," and at the bottom the name of the sponsor who donated money.

"We have been explicit with all of our sponsors, that they have no addresses, no phone numbers, no emails. This is simply a recognition," said Neff, 57, a Chicago native who has called Key West home for 24 years.

Neff added, "Part of the idea behind this program is that you don't have to have a smart phone. If you can walk and you can read, you will experience our history."

Several commissioners saw it differently.

"I know you've got to pay for them and everything but I don't think it's proper to have advertisements on all the little flags," said Commissioner Billy Wardlow.

Neff said that it's not true advertising.

"It's a recognition of our community standing behind its history," he said.

To pay for the project, Historic Markers is seeking sponsors. A Mallory Square banner will include the sponsor's name at the bottom for $900 a side or $1,200 for both sides.

Neff said Wednesday that so far they have about 60 sponsors.

Given the repeat history that the banner project has had at the commission, the panel had to approve the design as well as the locations.

"Twice before I believe you approved a design and you sent that forward to HARC," said assistant city attorney Larry Erskine. "HARC actually approved it. Mr. Neff wants to change the location and the number of them. Coincidentally, the design has changed some. I believe you've established a precedent."

Neff countered that each banner held so much information and that there was only so much room on each one.

"That's a great pitch," Yaniz said, smiling. "I'd still like it on the bottom."


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