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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Clear Channel doesn't own as many billboards in St. Pete as first thought



ST. PETERSBURG -- The City Council this week took up former Mayor Rick Baker's proposal to allow Clear Channel to put up 10 digital billboards in exchange for taking down 100 old ones.

The matter was tabled last year after complaints that Baker had tried to push the deal through before the end of his term. At the time, there was thought to be 144 Clear Channel billboards in the city. However, a survey has since found that the company only owns 132.

Given that, the plan is now to remove 80 old billboards and allow eight digital ones.

Pinellas County has banned digital billboards for up to a year and is studying the issue and whether digitial billboards are a dangerous distraction to drivers. Several St. Petersburg council members said they thought the city should wait until that study is completed before deciding what to do next.

Staff is planning to come back with an agreement with Clear Channel that the city can vote on, probably in April or May.

But council member Herb Polson and Mayor Bill Foster hinted that perhaps a comprehensive review or the entire city sign ordinance would be a better approach, rather than a single agreement with one billboard operator. Polson and Foster said the digital displays at banks, drug stores and title companies are becoming more of an eyesore.

But council chair Leslie Curran said, for now, staff should focus on the agreement with Clear Channel and get that done.

--Michael Van Sickler, Times staff writer

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 12:26pm]


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