Homeowners, billboard company reach deal
March 25, 2010
To win over skeptics of digital billboards, officials from Clear Channel Outdoor have for months been quietly negotiating with a coalition of Tampa homeowner associations.
This week, the parties emerged from those talks with a tentative agreement that could, if approved by Mayor Pam Iorio and the city council, open the door for the digital displays.
In a letter to the city council, Wofford Johnson, president of Tampa Homeowners, An Association of Neighborhoods, said the group would not oppose a proposed digital billboard ordinance if it included a package of concessions offered by the company.
Among those concessions, which representatives for the other major billboard company seeking to place digital signs in Tampa, CBS Outdoor, would have to agree to, are:
•Limit the number of digital billboards to 16 per company citywide.
•For each digital billboard installed in the city, the company would have to remove four existing traditional billboards and delete six credited billboards from a list of signs that have already been removed.
•Require a distance of at least 2,500 feet between each digital display.
•Restrict digital billboards largely to interstate highways and heavily congested local roadways such as Hillsborough Avenue and Dale Mabry Highway.
Opposition from the Tampa group, which represents dozens of homeowner associations, is a major hurdle for the two companies, which have been in talks with city officials for the past year on a proposed ordinance to regulate digital billboards.
"In a perfect world, we wouldn't have any billboards," said homeowners group vice president Randy Barron. "But this will reduce the impact on residential neighborhoods."
Tom O'Neill, Clear Channel Outdoor vice president, said the concessions are an example of how his company is trying to balance the concerns of the community with the need to embrace the newest technological advances in advertising.
"The open and continued dialogue is a tremendous blueprint for compromise and success," he said. "We are optimistic and hopeful that the city council will see our efforts as proactive and that upcoming council meetings can help finalize this effort."
The proposed changes would have to be approved by Iorio and the city council, which is expected to revisit the billboard issue April 22.
Council members reached Wednesday said they hadn't seen the letter from the homeowners group but expressed concerns that the city wasn't involved
"Until we've got it on the record, it's not a done deal," said council Chairman Tom Scott.
Councilman John Dingfelder said the board needs to decide whether it wants to allow digital billboards in the city at all before it decides how many or where they could be installed.
"We have even crossed that threshold yet," he said.
City Attorney Chip Fletcher said the city's legal department is reviewing the proposed changes to determine whether they can be worked into a final draft of the digital ordinance.
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