Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas County looks into allowing faster displays on digital billboards, lifting moratorium

CLEARWATER — Pinellas County has begun loosening its restrictions on digital billboards, despite opposition from neighborhood groups.

To make digital signs more lucrative, Clear Channel has asked to be able to change messages every six seconds instead of the county's current limit of 60 seconds.

The County Commission informally agreed last week to move ahead with a compromise that would allow changes every 15 seconds. It would coincide with lifting a moratorium on digital billboards the commission imposed in December. The board still must vote on a new ordinance this year.

Pinellas had imposed the moratorium to await a federal study on the safety of the signs. Now that the study's release has been pushed back until late this year, the county came up with its own proposal that gives billboard companies more leeway.

Clear Channel has pressed to expand its digital signs across the Tampa Bay area. It won approval to put the signs in Tampa this year, and St. Petersburg is considering allowing the signs as part of a proposal requiring the company to reduce standard billboards.

But members of the Council of Neighborhood Associations in St. Petersburg and Scenic Florida oppose the county's proposed changes, raising questions over motorist safety and visual blight.

"I hear things like our businesses want to have this … if all the businesses stand out, then what you have is the Las Vegas strip. I question whether Pinellas County wants to look like Las Vegas," said Travis Jarman, an official with both groups. He urged the county to consider seeking payments for the signs "if you're going to sell your soul."

Maureen Stafford, another CONA member, urged the board to aid the group's opposition to digital billboards.

"We're looking to you to pave a path for us. Because our job at our level will certainly be a lot easier if you have driven a path for yourself on the county level," she said.

Pinellas already allows the digital signs in its county code, with seven in the unincorporated areas and highways it oversees.

Critics warn that the lower standard could end up conflicting with results of the federal study. However, commissioners agreed to move forward with the 15-second interval with a promise that the formula producing it will be "scrubbed" by staff members to make sure it is the safe number.

"I guess I'm not really sold that the 15 seconds is the right number," said Commissioner Ken Welch, who questioned assumptions behind the formula.

Commissioners also want to speed up Clear Channel's planned removal of existing billboards over a few decades, and allowing the faster intervals could provide a necessary bargaining chip, Commissioner Susan Latvala said. The schedule is part of a settlement after long fights between the industry and county.

Clear Channel lobbyist Todd Pressman said the billboards are safe at six-second intervals. The county has found no direct link to safety issues at current digital locations, though nighttime accidents increased near one, said Pete Yauch, Pinellas' public works director.

At Park Avenue and Tyrone Boulevard, there were 5.3 accidents a year after the sign went up, more than the 3.4 the year before. But Yauch stressed other factors, such as drinking and driving, could figure in that as well.

Other communities allow quicker intervals, Pressman said. For example, Hillsborough allows signs to change every eight seconds.

"We believe the proof is in the pudding. You have them in your back yard," Pressman told the commission.

David DeCamp can be reached at or (727) 893-8779.

Pinellas County looks into allowing faster displays on digital billboards, lifting moratorium 07/17/10 [Last modified: Thursday, July 15, 2010 5:48pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Who is Alejandro Villanueva, the Steelers player and veteran who stood alone? Here's why he has the NFL's top-selling jersey today


    CHICAGO — When the national anthem started at Soldier Field on Sunday, the visiting sideline was mostly empty. The most prominent evidence of the Pittsburgh Steelers was offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva, a former Army Ranger, standing all by himself near the tunnel, holding his right hand over his heart.

    Alejandro Villanueva stands alone during the national anthem at Soldier Field in Chicago. [Associated Press]
  2. 'Battle of the Sexes' is a fine time capsule comedy, and not really about the tennis


    In 1973, tennis champion Billie Jean King joined a two-ring circus with hustler Bobby Riggs, billed as a Battle of the Sexes amid the women's liberation movement. Fifty million Americans watched the pop spectacle on TV.

    Emma Stone and Steve Carell in the film "Battle of the Sexes." [Fox Searchlight Pictures.]
  3. Hillsborough will not add extra days for storm


    Public school students in Hillsborough County do not have to come to school for additional days to make up for time missed in Hurricane Irma, the district announced Monday.

  4. Tom Cruise's son Connor Cruise to DJ Halloween party at Tampa's Hard Rock Cafe


    Whenever Tom Cruise comes to Clearwater on Church of Scientology business, he keeps a low profile. Occasionally he'll Connor Cruise attended Wild 94.1 Wild Splash in 2016.

  5. Bicyclist struck in St. Petersburg dies as result of injuries


    ST. PETERSBURG — A bicyclist who police said ran a red light and was struck by a car last week died over the weekend.