Things That Tick Me Off: Water Billboards

It is time for another addition of “Things That Tick Me Off”– the category that allows me to regain my composure by venting at annoying things in life. (It is far cheaper than therapy). This week’s winner is water billboards. I am in Ocean City, Maryland to speak on the Supreme Court as part of the Maryland State Bar Association‘s annual meeting. The conference is being held at the Clarion Resort on the beach. I arrive last night and took the kids to the beach. It was an amazing scene with huge waves and blue skies. As we took in the beauty, we were suddenly on confronted by a massive water billboard that moves slowly across the beach front, blocking the view and destroying the enjoyment of the beach. I must confess that this is the first time I have seen one of these monstrosities up close and I was appalled.

When we arrived, my youngest, Madie, asked what the “trucks” were doing on the water. She was pointing to huge signs that looked like floating 18-wheeler trucks passing slowly back and forth in front of the beach. BBi Displays is one company operating in the area. They have been destroying the view since at least 2007.

I do not understand why cities do not prohibit such commercial advertising off their beaches. Ocean City has been notorious for runaway development and a lack of city planning. However, one would think that this business directly undermines the beach experience for everyone. It strikes me as just above graffiti as a business enterprise. I have never like the planes dragging banners across beaches, but I understood that there might not be an easy way to deal with such advertisements (though I make a personal note never to do business with any store that uses the planes on beaches). However, at least you can look out on the ocean and ignore the plane. These water billboards block any view but the advertisement as it slowly moves along.

Unlike a plane, these water billboards also disrupt people who are boating and surfing near shore. The problem is that the objection is admittedly aesthetic for the most part. Aesthetic nuisances are often rejected by courts and that would be a question of a takings with a prohibition. However, cities are given a fair degree of leeway in regulating boating near shore. It would be worth a try and I would hope some local lawyers would volunteer to help the effort to rid the community of these obnoxious floating ads.

Cities like Miami now have these things floating constantly around tourists. One company calls it the “Wow” factor. I called the Ugh factor and makes me less likely to come back to that beach.

Obviously there are people who will do anything to make a buck, including destroying a vacation spot. It is an interesting example of Garrett Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons, where everyone crowds the air and water with advertisements — killing the very reason people come to the beach. When you add Ocean City’s lack of city planning and limits on development, the result is a downward spiral — the loss of some great beaches.

33 thoughts on “Things That Tick Me Off: Water Billboards”

  1. You guys are a bunch of fools! If the ads bother you so much don’t look at them! Do you complain to magazine editors about ads in their magazines or ads on TV? We live in an awesome country because people are innovative and strive to earn a decent living!

  2. Here in NJ we have a problem that spoils the beauty of our beaches.
    It’s called Snooki.

  3. When we arrived, my youngest, Madie, asked what the “trucks” were doing on the water. She was pointing to huge signs that looked like floating 18-wheeler trucks passing slowly back and forth in front of the beach.
    Salt water trucker? You have to keep the speed down to 10 miles an hour.

  4. junctionshamus many thanks, I hitchhiked there twice from western NY. To meet a buddy from grammar school that worked at periscope pictures. Oh my goodness, memories of youthful freedom are powerful. Specially cause I was free from the consequences of ignorance. Also I went there with my future wife, and also when she was my wife. I don’t think I will be going there with her as my ex wife. When I was a child I went there with my family once and just my father once. OH MY, memory overload (in a good way) .. I had a great experience in the ocean at midnight with a young woman I met in the purple moose!! ….. Yes it can be done if one is 22 and fearless…. or as I reflect now … if one is 22 and knows everything. Man! youth is fun.
    Is it Wisdom or Rheumatism that that bank the youthful fires, for if I could I may choose to be as stupid as my youth once was….if I could..
    I accept that now as a moot question, because the answer is equally moot.
    Where the heck is that darn Ponce DeLeon !!!!!!

  5. Mitt Romney called Professor, He says “why don’t you just pay the ad company more money to not run them, that’s what I do”

    Ps. any chance the Purple Moose Saloon is still there? It was on the boardwalk around 6th … 1974.

  6. it’s an outrage. they’re blocking my view of banner planes and the goodyear blimp.

  7. Come on Rafflaw, let’s hear it: “another example of corporate america destroying our way of life.”. Come on! I know it’s coming!!

  8. Not having to do with the beach, but I always loved that you cannot put up billboards in the state of Vermont. They have the right idea!

  9. If you live in CA and have a house on the beach, the state owns the part of the beach that extends up to line based on the water level as of a certain date. This ownership is established by a CA statute and title policies will always include an exception for the rights of the state of CA in the beach front property. No matter who you are, you can’t prevent people from walking through the surf in front of your property. This is totally different from the law on the east coast. Not sure if other western states have similar statutes.

    Maybe the takings case referred to by Malisha challenged that CA statute as a form of “taking.” Anyway, the statute’s been upheld and may be why you won’t see these abominable floating billboards in CA.

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