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Digital signs to replace traditional billboards in Pasco

By C.T. Bowen
Pasco County commissioners approved an agreement with Clear Channel on Tuesday, allowing the company to install digital billboards in exchange for taking down traditional static billboards. This is a Clear Channel billboard on Ulmerton Road in Pinellas. JAMES BORCHUCK | Times (2006)

DADE CITY — Pasco’s 18-year ban on new billboards officially is over, with Clear Channel Outdoors planning to install four digital advertising boards across the county.

In an agreement approved unanimously Tuesday by county commissioners, the company will take down 28 static billboards in exchange for the four high-tech digital light-emitting diode billboards, which rotate advertising messages.

Billboard companies had sought the trades because they can sell up to eight advertisements on a single LED sign. Commissioners agreed to amend their outdoor advertising ordinance earlier this year in an attempt to remove what they called visual blight, particularly along the U.S. 19 corridor in west Pasco.

"I think our citizens are going to be happy,’’ commission Chairman Mike Moore said Tuesday.

Clear Channel plans to install digital boards on: U.S. 19; State Road 54 east of Little Road; Dale Mabry Highway and Interstate 75. It will remove single signs from: State Road 52, Dale Mabry Highway, Little Road, Seven Springs Boulevard and County Line Road, two each from U.S. 41 and Alternate U.S. 19, and five from U.S. 19.

Tom O’Neil, vice president for real estate/public affairs for Clear Channel’s Tampa Bay division, told commissioners the first two conversions should be completed by the end of the year.

Alarmed at a proliferation of outdoor advertising, the county banned new billboards in 1999, but not before companies flooded the market with permit applications in advance of that ordinance.

In 2015, when the commission first considered lifting the ban, property appraiser records showed 493 billboard sites around the county containing an estimated 1,126 signs.

Except for asking for the location of the new digital boards and those to be removed, Commissioner Kathryn Starkey offered no comment on Tuesday’s agreement.

As a citizen activist in the 1990s, she was one of the founders of Scenic Pasco, which pushed for the billboard ban.

In August, she opposed a swap from Champion Outdoor Real Estate Assets in which the company offered to take down three static billboards in exchange for one so-called tri-vision board featuring three rotating advertisements.

Currently, the only tri-vision board in Pasco faces southbound motorists on U.S. 41 as they approach the SR 54 intersection. The rewritten sign ordinance, approved by commissioners in January, allows new tri-vision boards in exchange for taking down three traditional boards.

‘‘I missed this one in the ordinance,’’ Starkey said in August. "I would have said this is not a good deal for us.’’