Thursday, January 13, 2011

Jacksonville considers reinterpreting city charter to allow digital billboards

The city of Jacksonville, FL is poised to be bombarded with a slew of digital billboards if a new interpretation of the city charter is allowed to stand.

photo by Max Ashburn
A 1995 settlement agreement between the city, concerned citizens and billboard companies prohibited construction of new billboards in Jacksonville.  It also sought to gradually clean up the city's visual environment by requiring that a certain number of signs come down each year in residential areas and allowing a certain number to be rebuilt along busy commercial corridors using "identical sign faces."

In 2009 Clear Channel Outdoor requested permits to rebuild four billboards as digital billboards, a request that was denied by then-City Attorney Shannon Eller, who said flat out that the digital signs were a completely different kind of billboard and not identical in any way to the ones they would be replacing.

Digital billboards were not mentioned in the 1995 settlement agreement because there were no digital billboards in Duval County at that time.  In fact digital billboards as we know them today didn't exist at all in 1995.  However, any common sense interpretation of the requirement for an "identical" or "exact" sign face replacement says that a static sign rebuilt as digital does not meet that requirement.

Still, current city attorneys and the departing mayor stand poised to allow this reinterpretation (or really, misinterpretation), to go through.  They are sure to meet strong opposition from citizens, community groups and the legal community.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Winnipeg orders downtown digital billboard turned off

Our neighbors to the north have not been immune from the onslaught of digital billboards, and now one of Canada's largest cities has ordered a large digital sign be turned off.

photo from CBC news
The sign, in downtown Winnipeg, was erected illegally and in spite of the fact that permits for it had been denied.  At three stories high, it shown light across neighboring buildings.  Residents in one building complained to city officials, who again denied the sign a permit and ordered that it come down.

Gordon McDiarmid, who lives nearby, called the illumination from LED bulbs on the sign "highly intrusive" and "disturbing."  He said it is akin to having an outdoor movie theatre "right outside our window 24 hours a day."

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Florida town says goodbye to last billboard

A small town on the Atlantic coast of Florida saw its last billboard removed in December.  The town of Beverly Beach said good riddance to the sign, which had lingered around since it was damaged during hurricanes in 2005.

Clear Channel Outdoor, the owner of the sign, had wanted to renegotiate with the town to keep the billboard up, but the town held firm despite fears of litigation.

John McDonald, the town commissioner, thinks Beverly Beach's lack of billboards distinguishes it from nearby places.  "We're probably the only town around here that has no billboards," he said. "I think it makes the place much better-looking than everything else."