Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Plug the loopholes and do the digital billboard deal in St. Petersburg

Several of our communities in the Tampa Bay area are dealing with the question of digital billboards.

Pinellas County has imposed a delay of up to a year on new ones, waiting for a federal safety study. The city of Tampa is wrestling with the issue, too.

As for St. Petersburg, the question must be answered immediately. Mayor Rick Baker has struck a proposed deal to allow them; the deal is in front of the City Council.

The mayor's deal with Clear Channel Communications involves a 10-for-1 swap.

The company, which owns 144 of the roughly 180 billboards in the city, would take down 100 signs, in exchange for 10 digital billboards on major highways — Interstate 275 and its spurs, 34th Street, and three boulevards: Gandy, Tyrone and Roosevelt.

The city's ban on billboards within 500 feet of a residential area would stay in effect. The new billboards would be larger, up to 14 feet by 48 feet.

Should the City Council approve the mayor's deal? I'd suggest there are three levels of consideration:

(1) The aesthetic tradeoff, which is somewhat a matter of opinion. The mayor feels that it is worth the trade, getting rid of 100 billboards around the city in exchange for 10 digital signs on the highways. If you hate digital billboards with a passion, you could make the opposite case.

(2) The safety question. Are digital billboards too distracting to drivers? There's a major federal study coming out in 2010, and critics of the St. Petersburg deal argue that any decision should be delayed (which is the path that Pinellas County took).

On the other hand, there already is a mountain of conflicting studies, and the 2010 report is not going to make new recommendations about rules, placement and so forth. The city's proposed rules for digital billboards do contain good safety requirements.

(3) On the most detailed level, there are some loose spots in the new ordinance and deal with Clear Channel the City Council is being asked to approve.

Personally, I wouldn't approve the ordinance without these changes. However, the mayor and his staff seem amenable to making them:

• Making it clear that all future requests for digital billboards — not just the Clear Channel deal — require a swap of existing signs. The practical effect would be to limit future digital billboards to existing owners.

• Making it clear that any digital billboard must be on the spot of an existing sign.

• Including a specific, 2,500-foot minimum distance between signs, in addition to the requirement that drivers not be able to see two at once.

• Clearing up confusing language over maximum allowed height, and a loophole that allows extra height in case of visual obstruction such as trees.

Lastly, a suggestion from the group Scenic St. Petersburg makes sense: We're talking about an industry known for challenging sign ordinances in court. Would it hurt to hire the Smartest Billboard Lawyer in the World for advice on whether this ordinance has unintended consequences?

This brings us back to the issues of whether to wait for the federal safety study, which is a reasonable thing to argue, and whether you just don't like digital billboards, which is a personal position.

Me, I'm a digital kind of guy. I'd plug the loopholes, check with a smart lawyer and take the deal. No plugs, no deal.

Plug the loopholes and do the digital billboard deal in St. Petersburg 12/07/09 [Last modified: Monday, December 7, 2009 8:19pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rowdies shut out at Pittsburgh

    Soccer

    PITTSBURGH — The Rowdies lost their first USL game in nearly a month, 1-0 to Pittsburgh on Thursday night.

  2. Trump reveals that he didn't record Comey after all

    Politics

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump declared Thursday he never made and doesn't have recordings of his private conversations with ousted former FBI director James Comey, ending a monthlong guessing game that he started with a cryptic tweet and that ensnared his administration in yet more controversy.

    President Donald Trump said Thursday that he didn’t record his conversations with James Comey.
  3. Lightning fans, don't get attached to your first-round draft picks

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — When Lightning GM Steve Yzerman announces his first-round pick tonight in the amateur draft at No. 14, he'll invite the prospect onto the stage for the once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity.

    Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin (27) eludes  Montreal Canadiens left wing Phillip Danault (24) during the second period of Wednesday???‚??„?s (12/28/16) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Montreal Canadiens at the Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  4. Investigation Discovery TV show profiles 2011 Landy Martinez murder case

    Crime

    The murder of a St. Petersburg man will be featured this week on a new true crime series Murder Calls on Investigation Discovery.

    Jose Adame sits in a Pinellas County courtroom during his 2016 trial and conviction for first-degree murder. Adame was convicted of first-degree murder last year for torturing and then executing his boyfriend as he pleaded for his life in 2011. Now it will be featured in a new true crime series Murder Calls on Investigation Discovery. The episode will air on June 26 at 9 p.m. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times]
  5. Uhuru mayoral candidate Jesse Nevel protests exclusion from debate

    Blogs

    ST. PETERSBURG — Jesse Nevel, the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement candidate for mayor, on Thursday demanded that he be allowed to participate in a July 25 televised debate between incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman and challenger Rick Baker.

    Mayoral candidate Jesse Nevel holds a news conference outside the headquarters of the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday to protest his exclusion from the mayoral debate. Nevel is a member of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement.