City billboards are step closer to going digital
April 23, 2010
A proposed ordinance that would allow digital billboards in Tampa inched a step closer to approval Thursday, with the city council giving the measure a tentative nod.
Clear Channel Outdoors and CBS Outdoors sought council approval to begin installing digital billboards, which can exhibit multiple ads on one screen, throughout the city.
Under proposed rules being considered by the council, the number of electronic displays would be limited to 12 citywide, six for each company. They would have to be at least 2,500 feet apart and would be restricted to interstate highways and commercial areas.
The rules would restrict the rate at which ads on digital displays change to every 10 seconds for federal highways and 15 seconds for state and local roads.
At a workshop Thursday, the council voted 4-3 to move forward with the proposed rules, with Mary Mulhern, Joe Caetano and Gwen Miller voting against it.
Councilman John Dingfelder, an outspoken critic of billboards, voted for the measure after persuading council members to impose the limit of 12 digital billboards citywide instead of the proposed 32.
Dingfelder is the only council member to get a campaign donation - $500 - from Clear Channel in this election cycle toward his bid for the Hillsborough County Commission.
He called his proposal a "compromise" and said it wasn't influenced by the contribution, which came last month.
Chairman Tom Scott urged fellow council members to move ahead with the measure.
"We cannot continue to keep our heads buried in the sand," he said. "Not long ago we didn't have cell phones, and now everyone has one. We are living in the 21st century."
A public hearing and initial vote on the ordinance is set for May 6.
After years of court hearings and closed-door negotiations with city officials, the city in November settled lawsuits with Clear Channel and CBS requiring them, among other provisions, to take down regular billboards in "scenic view" areas throughout the city.
Under the terms of the settlements, the companies will be allowed to replace them with digital billboards in other locations.
Representatives from both companies say allowing digital billboards will mean a reduction from the 1,300 regular billboards throughout the city.
Neighborhood groups and some council members worry that a proliferation of digital billboards will ruin the city's visual landscape and create public safety issues.
Mulhern wanted a moratorium on digital billboards until the release of a federal study on whether the displays distract motorists, but he couldn't get support for the measure.
"There are some communities that have banned them altogether," she said. "I don't see any public benefits from approving this. We have enough blight and ugly billboards."
©2010 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC.
Back to Tampa Tribune Page. . .
Back to Home Page. . .