Friday, November 27, 2009

Milwaukee To Boost Tax Bill for Big Billboard

By switching to the income method to determine property tax assessments for billboards, the City of Milwaukee is expected to raise an additional $1.2 million in revenue from the two largest billboard operators in the city, according to the Milwaukee Business Journal.

Clear Channel, which has over 800 billboards in the city, is likely to see its tax bill jump from just over $100,000 last year to over $1.1 million this year under the new method. Lamar Advertising's bill would increase from $82,000 to $320,000- a nearly 300% increase.

Clear Channel has filed suit to challenge Milwaukee's new assessment method, but the city believes a recent Wisconsin Supreme Court decision involving a similar case in the city of Madison gives the city an ample basis to use the income approach.

Expect more cities to follow the lead of Milwaukee by seeking increased revenues from an industry that would not exist without public investment in roads.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Cleveland Officials Call Foul on LeBron Mega-Billboard

existing supergraphic allowed by city
NBA superstar LeBron James generally rules Cleveland, but a shot by Nike to replace an existing mega-billboard of the hometown hero with a more blatant commerical ad was blocked by the City Planning Commission.

The existing sign does contain the Nike swoosh, but the city approved it on the basis that it is mural art. However, the proposed new sign was determined to be an advertisement for Nike and prohibitted by the city sign code.

Although advocates might question whether the current ten-story supergraphic with a world-famous corporate logo is art, city officials nevertheless should be applauded for blowing the whistle on this latest attempt to erect a blatant ten-story supergraphic ad.

Friday, November 20, 2009

LA Law

Last month, we brought you the news out of Los Angeles that a federal judge had issued a temporary order dismissing the challenge of LA's restrictions on digital billboards. We're happy to report that her final ruling reaffirmed this decision.

But that's not all. Earlier this month a Superior Court judge struck down a controversial settlement in 2006 between a prior city attorney and Big Billboard that allowed over 800 traditional billboards to be switched to digital technology. However, the judge tampered the jubilation of scenic advoactes as he declined to void the permits of the 101 digital signs that already have been erected under the settlement agreement; instead, a case by case review of each sign may be required.

So what does the future hold for these digital bad boys? If community advocates have any say, the digitals will come down. Earlier this week, dozens of concerned citizens turned out for a city hearing on a new proposal that would order the Department of Building and Safety to stop issuing any new digital permits and to evaluate whether existing permits should be revoked.

To follow the roller coaster of legal developments, visit Ban Billboard Blight.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

FHWA Awards Scenic Byways Communities $41 Million

Communities in 43 states received nearly $41 million from the Federal Highway Administration for 160 projects to improve and promote scenic byways.

Scenic Byways grants fund a wide array of projects that enhance the byway experience for visitors.

Examples of projects that received funding for scenic preservation and enhancement include viewshed protection for North Carolina's Nantahala byway, the construction of a scenic landscape and wildlife observation deck for Wisconsin's Alma byway, a scenic pullout for South Carolina's Cherokee Foothills byway, and the development of a resource protection plan for Arizona's Navajo Nation byway.

Other grants helped support the development of marketing and interpretive materials, the construction of pedestrian and bicycle facilities, historic preservation projects, and safety improvements.

For the official FHWA press release and list of grants, click here. And don't forget to seek out America's Scenic Byways in your future travels!

San Francisco Citizens Say No to Billboards

The heft of a powerful developer and the billboard industry was no match for the grass roots efforts of scenic advocates as San Francisco voters soundly rejected Proposition D, a ballot iniative that would have created an intensive billboard district in the heart of the city.

San Francisco Beautiful led the fight to defeat the effort to lift a ban on new billboards so that the historic Market Street Street could be blanketed with intensive digital billboard advertising. The defeat of the proposition reaffirmed the strong civic pride and sense of place that make San Francisco a world class city. San Francisco Beautiful President Milo Hanke remarked, "San Francisco voters removed all doubt - they will tolerate no new billboards."

San Francisco voters blocked previous measures that would allow new billboard measures in 2002 and 2007.

The defeat of Prop D was not the only good news for scenic advocates on election day: city voters also passed Proposition E, which prohibits additional advertising on city property.