Office of Citizen
Rest in Peace,
BILLBOARDS - Akron and Cleveland
Submitted by briancummins on Wed, 02/04/2009 - 21:47.
These two issues generated a local interest in Cleveland to take a closer look at the existing legislation.
Clear Channel initiated the request to the City to have the ordinance amended. For their business interests, they would like the law tightened-up so that they do not have to go through the Board of Zoning Appeals process to convert a static billboard to a new digital. The current law states:
"(5) Changeable Copy. The new or reconstructed billboard may incorporate automatic changeable copy only if such copy is limited to a single billboard panel or two back-to-back billboard panels and only if each such panel replaces two or more billboard panels on a single parcel of property or two or more billboard panels on adjacent properties. The replacement billboard panel shall not be larger than any of the billboard panels it is replacing. In the case of a sign utilizing changeable copy, each message shall remain fixed for at least eight (8) seconds.
The "two or more" verbiage has posed problems with the lack of clarity regarding how many static billboards should be removed as an equitable exchange.
There has been a great deal of effort and discussion over these past 9-months on the part of active citizens, businesses, non-profits (a CNDC ad-hoc committee & NPI), Clear Channel, Cleveland city Planning Commission and City Council to consider what would be best for an amendment. The discussions have evolved to the point that last week members of the Ad Hoc group sponsored William D. Brinton, Rogers Towers, P.A. to come and speak in Cleveland.
Mr. Brinton is considered an expert in Land Use law and in representing local government interests pertaining to billboard legislation. While in Cleveland last week he met with representatives of Mayor Jackson’s Administration including the Law Department, Planning Commission, City Council and the CNDC Ad-Hoc Committee on Billboards. Additionally, there were two informational meetings conducted at Cinecraft Productions, hosted by Maria Keckan and Neil McCormick, where staff from local community development corporations, several City Council members and others got a chance to hear Bill’s presentation and ask questions.
Currently in Cleveland, Mayor Jackson’s Administration is in the process of reviewing the information discussed from last week’s meeting with Bill Brinton. One strong recommendation that I and others have made is to have the legislation withdrawn that was introduced in June (there is a consensus that the Administration is in control of the legislation now), and have a moratorium put-in place for not allowing any new billboards permit applications so that the City can take adequate time and deliberation to formalize an amended ordinance.
Generally all-sides understand that the existing legislation is lacking and needs to be amended, so a "do nothing" options is not on the table. The only two viable options appear to be to 1) allow more new digital billboards to go up in the City and deal with the details of cleaning up the language; deciding what needs to be regulated (e.g. lighting, distance from residennces or specific districts etc...) and deciding on a more specific ratio of what should be traded, or 2) Place a prohibition on any new billboards in the City. To weigh these options, it is my opinion that the City of Cleveland should first and foremost consider the City’s goals with regards to our Billboard Ordinance.
The existing ordinance was born out of lost litigation as pertaining to billboard content, and there was a great deal of discussion as to allowing digital billboards into the Cleveland market. Many believed and still do that they are a sign of technological progress. But, currently there is a growing awareness in Cleveland and a movement nationally for local government to seek to fulfill two primary goals:
1) reduction of total billboard inventories over the long-term and
The argument then follows that rather than to “fix” the existing legislation and continue to allow new digitals, the City should move to prohibit them on the basis of the nuisance and blight they cause to our vistas and neighborhoods. In doing so, the city would in fact minimize to the extent possible the exposure to litigation – Brinton explains that prohibitions of new billboards have been upheld by state courts on the basis of safety and aesthetic issues - Legislators and planning officials potentially believe otherwise). And, that overtime through attrition and potential other means the city would see a slow but certain decrease in the number of billboards it has.
The only reason why we would want to continue to allow new digital billboards is the prospect of eliminating more of the old ones sooner (than through attrition or other means). We would in affect per Brinton’s opinion, be increasing our chances of litigation from the industry, and although we would have a chance to eliminate, by formula some of the old billboards we have, we would nonetheless be increasing what many see as an even more serious form of billboard blight.
So the discussions continues in Cleveland for the time being.
In the mean time, there is a movement afoot to initiate a Scenic Cleveland organization that could lobby the City on behalf of those preferring the “Prohibition” option or at least an agreesive replacement formula. If you would like more information on how you can help, please contact Maria Keckan at Maria [at] cinecraft [dot] com. Check out the Main Scenic America site for lots of information from a Pro-Beauty perspective.
AKRON - I’ve not kept up as much on the issue but what I know is that this coming Monday, 2/9/09, the Akron City Council is expected to move on an amendment to their Billboard Ordinance. Per the Akron Beacon Journal writer, Stephanie Warsmith, 1/27/09:
Council is expected to settle the issue at its Feb. 9 meeting.
A neighborhood group contends billboards blight the city and that Akron's billboard laws are not strict enough. Clear Channel Communications, which owns most of Akron's billboards, opposes any changes."
It has been confirmed that Akron City Council's Economic Development and Job Creation Committee approved the lelgislative amendment last Monday and it is expected to be approved by their full Council this coming Monday February 9th.