Tampa gives initial approval to digital billboards
May 7, 2010
Digital billboards could soon be sprouting from Tampa's landscape.
The city council today approved a first reading of a proposed ordinance that will clear the way for digital billboards along highways and commercials areas throughout the city.
The vote was 5 to 2, with Council members Mary Mulhern and Linda Saul-Sena voting against it. The board must vote on it a second time for the measure to become law. The second and final reading will be May 20.
"There's no public benefit from this decision today," Mulhern said.
Clear Channel Outdoor and CBS Outdoor seek council approval to begin installing digital billboards, which can exhibit multiple, rotating advertisements on one screen.
Currently, the electronic displays are not allowed under the city's outdated sign code.
Under the proposed ordinance, the number of digital billboards would be limited to 12 citywide, six for each of the two companies. They would have to be at least 2,500 feet apart and would be largely restricted to interstate highways and commercial areas.
If the companies want to add more displays, they would have to wait at least two years and go before council to get approval.
The proposed rules would also restrict the rate at which ads on digital displays change to every 10 seconds for federal highways and 15 seconds for state and local roadways.
Previous proposals would have capped the number of electronic displays at 32 citywide and allowed them much closer to residential areas, but the council â?? and negotiations between Clear Channel and neighborhood groups â?? scaled back those provisions.
Last year, the city settled a decade of litigation with Clear Channel and CBS requiring them to take down regular billboards in "scenic view" areas across the city. In exchange, the companies will be allowed to replace them with digital billboards in other areas.
The settlements include a provision allowing the companies to opt out of them if the city council doesn't approve a digital billboard ordinance within six months, or this month.
If the proposed ordinance doesn't pass, it could send the issue back to court.
Combined, CBS and Clear Channel have about 1,300 regular billboards in the city.
The proposed ordinance would require both advertising companies to remove four existing traditional billboards and delete six credited billboards from a list of signs that have already been removed, for each digital billboard installed within the city.
Billboard companies said the move would vastly improve Tampa's visual landscape by reducing the number of regular billboards. Neighborhood groups and environmentalists argue that the measure would mean a proliferation of digital billboards, ruining the city's landscape and creating major public safety issues by distracting passing motorists.
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