Monday, October 09, 2006

Gates D'Alessandro and Woodyard Refuse To Remove Signs

Fort Myers Real Estate Company's Signs Clutter Countryside

LABELLE, FLORIDA --  Hendry county residents have been complaining lately about the tremendous amount real estate company billboards that are now littering the thoroughfares of this rural county. With the recent boom in land sales in Southwest Florida, "for sale" signs have abounded on nearly every street in this farm and ranch county.  What has been a quiet secret in the real estate industry is that some of the largest advertising signs from the biggest real estate companies are actually illegal, and have now become permanent free advertising locations for the brokers willing to disregard local zoning laws.

Take the large Fort Myers real estate company of Gates, D'Alessandro and Woodyard, for example. They were the brokers in the $4 million sale of the Port LaBelle Inn and adjoining acreage properties almost a year ago.  While the transaction took place in November of 2005, the company apparently has no plans to take down their four oversized double-billboard "For Sale" advertisements, two along Birchwood Parkway in Port LaBelle across from a residential neighborhood and two along State Road 80 east of LaBelle.

Susan Galbraith, Chief Operating Officer said "We do it all the time," when asked why her "for sale" billboards were still up when the properties had been sold long ago. She said she has many similar billboard signs up in Lee county and didn't see any problem. When told that her signs were apparently violating Hendry county zoning ordinances, she asked to be provided with a copy.  Hendry county only allows "for sale" signs at the property being sold and cites various restrictions as to size, depending on if the property is residential or commercial. The Gates, D'Alessandro and Woodyard billboards appears to violate the local ordinances not only because the properties are not for sale any longer, but the four double-sized signs are way in excess of size of signs allowed without a permit being pulled from Hendry County Zoning and Building.

What the company apparently does once a real estate property is sold, is to place a "sold" sign on the for sale sign and then leave the billboard there indefinitely. A good trick for some free advertising space even though it violates local laws and make for unwelcome visual pollution, residents say. Galbraith, nor anyone from the firm responded to two written inquiries from the Sunday Morning News asking when the signs would be taken down.

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