Last weekend, I saw a photograph on social media that made me angry.
So, I reposted it – helping fuel something of a tempest in a teapot in the process.
Five days after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, some fifteen area residents became members of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary – Flotilla 44 – and guarded our coastline from the threat of German submarines and coastal infiltrators from the wooden watch tower at Ormond-by-the-Sea.
Armed only with a pair of binoculars, these intrepid citizens stood their post for the duration of the war.
In the early 1950’s – when Ormond-by-the-Sea was a much different place than it is today – locals used the tower to post gaudy real estate signs and, in a 1955 article in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, it was described as “…the biggest eyesore in three counties.”
After public outcry, those signs came down – and there was talk of removing the tower altogether to prevent it “interfering with or detracting from the ocean.”
Fortunately, the signs went and the tower stayed.
The watch tower was refurbished around 2007, and a plaque was placed at its base explaining the structures significance to the local wartime effort.
Relatively recently, mega-developer Mori Hosseini’s ICI Homes developed the Verona subdivision on the west side of A-1-A, immediately adjacent to the tower – replacing what had been an old filling station and mobile home park.
Inexplicably, some jackleg in the ICI Homes marketing department thought it would be appropriate to repeat history and affix hideous advertising signage to the north and south facing sides of this historic structure – complete with a large arrow pointing toward the subdivision.
My initial reaction was one of shock – this time-honored part of our local heritage being used as a cheap billboard struck me as a slap-in-the-face to those brave men and women who stood watch there during World War II – and a horrific example of how little some developers care about protecting and preserving that which is important to local residents.
I understand that a number of area residents placed calls to ICI Homes and local media outlets to express their concerns – taking a personal stake in preserving our quality of life and the scenic view on one of the last unspoiled sections of A-1-A.
Then, one of my personal heroes – the intrepid WESH-TV reporter Claire Metz got to the bottom of it – as did the incredible investigative reporter Mike Springer from WFTV Channel 9.
According to Claire, upon contacting ICI Homes, she learned that the advertising had been erected on the watch tower without the knowledge of ICI Home’s senior management – and representatives for the developer advised it would be removed immediately – with apologies to local residents who were rightfully offended by the defacement.
According to a release from ICI Homes:
“In light of the concerns raised from local residents over the few days, we have decided to take down the signs that were recently installed on the Watchtower across from our Verona Oceanside subdivision on A1A. The signs were modeled after historical photographs depicting signage on the tower.
ICI Homes wants to be a good neighbor and acted promptly once we realized the impact it was having on area residents.”
Now, that part about the signs being “modeled after historical photographs depicting signage on the tower” is complete horseshit – but I appreciate the sentiment – and the quick removal of the offensive billboards.
Frankly, Mr. Hosseini didn’t have to do anything – other than obtain a sign permit.
According to reports, when ICI Homes purchased the property, it included the watch tower – along with the traditional parking area at its base that was recently fenced off to public use by our friends at Volusia County.
Last night I had the pleasure of speaking with Clayton Park, business editor for The Daytona Beach News-Journal, who is doing a piece on the “Great Northshore Sign Debate of 2020.”
Through Mr. Park, I expressed my appreciation to Mori Hosseini for listening to the concerns of area residents and restoring this important piece of our local landscape to its pristine – if not slightly weathered – condition.
That truly is being a good neighbor.
Thanks to everyone who let their voices be heard.
In my view, this is the essence of civic involvement.
And kudos to ICI Homes for taking positive steps to correct a mistake that caused such a visceral reaction with Ormond-by-the-Sea residents who care deeply about preserving those historic, cultural, and environmental sites and amenities that make our area so unique.