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Airstream Ranch, a code violation or art? Three judges will decide

DOVER — Frank Bates' trailers are still planted nose down along Interstate 4, even though code enforcement officers told him in March to remove the 7 1/2 Airstream trailers or face a $100 daily fine.

His appeal to the Hillsborough County Code Enforcement Board in May was rejected, so Bates has taken the case to Circuit Court, where code enforcement appeals are heard by a three-judge panel.

A judge has suspended the fines until it's decided if Bates, owner of Bates RV, can keep the so-called Airstream Ranch.

On Monday, First Amendment attorney Luke Lirot filed a brief filled with precedent from similar cases and quotes from fans of Airstream Ranch.

The display is "an artistic icon," Susan Gott from Phoenix Class Studio in Tampa says in the brief.

Lirot hopes the court will overturn the code board's decision that the display violates zoning and sign restrictions, as well as rules against debris and improper storage. Those rules weren't designed to regulate artistic expression, he said.

"There's no doubt this is an artistic exhibition," Lirot said. "It's not storage, it's not junk, it's not a sign."

No hearing is scheduled yet.

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2443.

Airstream Ranch, a code violation or art? Three judges will decide 07/10/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 15, 2008 10:49am]
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