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Bernie Weiss stands in front of his mailbox. File photo.
Longboat Key Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013 4 years ago

Lore: Fish mailbox netted controversy

by: Robin Hartill Managing Editor

In early 1996, former Riviera Beach Resort owner Bernie Weiss wanted an attractive mailbox, so he asked a friend in Canada to build him an 8-foot mailbox shaped like a fish.

But, as Weiss soon learned, being a big fish in a small town comes with disadvantages.

The mailbox at the resort, which is now the Sandpiper Inn, was the biggest fish commissioners had to fry during a January 1996 workshop.

Commissioner Bob Drohlich brought up the mailbox “with an outlandish fish on it,” saying:

“If that’s not an advertising sign, then we leave ourselves open for the next person to put a dancing girl or a space man on top of their mailbox.”

At the center of the issue was whether the mailbox could be considered a sign.

Town Attorney David Persson explained that the purpose of residential mailbox embellishments was for decoration, while the same embellishment on a commercial property’s sign would be to draw attention to the business.

He told the commission that it could make the argument that such mailboxes were signs but warned, “You’re skating on pretty thin ice.”

After reading about the controversy in the Longboat Observer, Weiss decided to reel in his sign.

On Feb. 8, 1996, Weiss replaced the 8-foot fish on the mailbox with a 5-foot fish.

Weiss told the Longboat Observer at the time that the mailbox caused too much controversy.

The new mailbox was in compliance with a proposed ordinance that the commission passed in May 1996. The ordinance limited mailbox dimensions along Gulf of Mexico Drive to 5 feet high, 2 feet wide and 2.5 feet long.

But Weiss’ “fishbox” wasn’t the only mailbox to deliver controversy.

After reading about the debate, the residents of a Russell Street home responded by spicing up their mailbox with a nude mannequin. They put a bathing suit on the mannequin after learning that she could be in violation of the town’s sign-code prohibition on obscenity.

Still, to be in compliance with the new dimension requirements, the Longboat Observer reported that she would have to lose some height and weight.

After the commission passed the ordinance, a resident complained to the commission that, according to the ordinance, her porpoise mailbox would need a nose job because its snout was too long.

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