Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

'Airstream Ranch' along I-4 does not violate law, judges rule

A display of upended and partially buried Airstream campers can stay near Dover on Interstate 4, a panel of judges has ruled.

KATHLEEN FLYNN | Times (2008)

A display of upended and partially buried Airstream campers can stay near Dover on Interstate 4, a panel of judges has ruled.

TAMPA — Love it or hate it, the Winnebago-sized installation known as the "Airstream Ranch" is legal, a three-judge panel has ruled.

This week's decision reverses a $100-per-day fine on Frank and Dorothy Bates, who put up the shiny row of silver RVs in 2007.

"I thought we were right all the time," said Frank Bates, 54. "It's just kind of nice that once in a while you can actually win."

Hillsborough County officials can appeal, but Bates plans to keep the trailers buried nose-first in view of drivers whizzing through Dover on Interstate 4.

And that's not all.

"Now we're going to light it at night," he said.

Since Airstream Ranch was installed, more than 10,000 visitors have signed petitions at Bates' nearby RV dealership in support, he said. It is popular enough that he sells Airstream Ranch shirts and postcards.

The attraction has drawn tourists from as far away as Japan, was the backdrop for a fashion shoot and has been featured in a country music video. Two people asked about marrying there.

But some neighbors hate it and have complained to the county, which has 30 days to appeal the decision to the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Lakeland.

Late Friday afternoon, Assistant County Attorney Nancy Takemori said no decision had been made whether to recommend an appeal, something code enforcement officials hope to do.

"We're certainly disappointed, but we'll abide by the judges' ruling if that's what it comes down to," said John Ferdon, a senior business analyst for code enforcement. "It seemed kind of open and shut to us."

The judges did not consider the artistic merits. Nor did they decide whether it is constitutionally protected free speech.

That's okay, said Bates' attorney, Luke Lirot of Clearwater.

"They didn't declare it to be art, but they certainly declared it not to be junk," he said. "From my perspective, anything that protects what somebody thinks is an artistic expression is a good result no matter how we get there."

Three judges from the civil appellate division of the Hillsborough circuit court said county officials had not produced substantial, competent evidence establishing that the display created a nuisance, was a commercial sign or constituted an open storage of the vehicles.

The judges reversed a March 2008 decision of the Code Enforcement Board fining the Bateses $100 per day while the violations continued. The fines had piled up to $7,800, but were stayed once Bates appealed.

Bates said he upended the trailers — 7 1/2 in all — in honor of Airstream's 75th anniversary

Times Staff Writer Jessica Vander Velde contributed to this report.

'Airstream Ranch' along I-4 does not violate law, judges rule 02/12/10 [Last modified: Saturday, February 13, 2010 12:04am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Nearly 1 in 4 Tampa Bay homeowners considered equity rich

    Real Estate

    If your home is worth at least 50 percent more than you owe, you're rich — equity rich that is.

    About one in four Tampa Bay homeowners are considered "equity rich." [Associated Press file photo]
  2. Trump strategist Steve Bannon: No military solution in North Korea

    National

    BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — President Donald Trump's chief strategist Steve Bannon says there's no military solution to the threat posed by North Korea and its nuclear ambitions, despite the president's recent pledge to answer further aggression with "fire and fury."

    Steve Bannon, chief White House strategist to President Donald Trump, has drawn fire from some of Trump's closest advisers. [Associated Press]
  3. Rays have their chances, but end up with another loss (w/video)

    The Heater

    TORONTO — The litany of games the Rays have given away this season is long enough, arguably too lengthy. So the only way to get to the postseason is make up for some of those losses by grabbing some wins when the opportunity is presented, especially at this time of year when the margin is diminished and the stakes …

    Associated Press
  4. Dunedin man accused of possessing child pornography

    Crime

    DUNEDIN — A 57-year-old man was arrested Wednesday, accused of intentionally downloading child pornography, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said.

    Richard Beal Anger, 57, of Dunedin faces 11 counts of possession of child pornography. [Courtesy of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
  5. Pence cuts short Latin America trip and pressures Chile to sever all ties to North Korea

    Politics

    SANTIAGO, Chile — Vice President Mike Pence is cutting short his Latin America trip by one day to return to Washington for a strategy meeting Friday at Camp David with President Donald Trump and the national security team.

    Vice President Mike Pence urged Chilean President Michelle Bachelet to take a tougher stand against North Korea on Wednesday in Santiago, Chile.