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Wednesday, Jul 23, 2014

St. Pete electronic sign law ruled unconstitutional

Published:   |   Updated: March 20, 2014 at 11:11 AM

CLEARWATER — A judge ruled Thursday that St. Petersburg’s electronic sign ordinance was unconstitutional because it allows some billboards — such as one on Interstate 275 used by the Tampa Bay Rays — to change messages more frequently than ones used by average citizens.

The issue was brought to a head after neurosurgeon David McKalip was fined $143 Aug. 23 for changing the messages too quickly on the sign outside his business, Start to Finish Spine Care, 431 Southwest Blvd. N.

According to the ordinance, McKalip was required to keep the same electronic message for at least 60 seconds before a new one appeared.

The baseball team, in contrast, may change its messages as quickly as every 10 seconds. The city allows other electronic signs to change more quickly than the 60-second time frame, too.

County Judge Patrick Caddell ruled the city could not have two sets of standards for two entities as it violated the equal protection clause of the Florida Constitution.

The $143 fine was dismissed.

“The ordinance is done,” said George Rahdert, McKalip’s attorney, outside court.

Assistant City Attorney Jeanne Hoffman declined comment after the ruling.

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