Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa billboard settlement opens door for digital signs

TAMPA — After years of legal wrangling, the City Council on Thursday approved a settlement agreement with two billboard companies.

But there's a catch: The companies can get out of the deal, which requires them to take down some signs, if the city doesn't pass an ordinance allowing digital billboards.

The vote was 5-2, with council members Mary Mulhern and Linda Saul-Sena opposing it.

Mulhern specifically cited the opt-out provision.

"We want to be like cities that don't allow digital billboards. I see this agreement at the top of that slippery slope," Mulhern said.

Saul-Sena mentioned the agreement's lack of fines for not taking down billboards. She said the city needed to hire an outside attorney with experience in sign issues to negotiate the settlement.

"The sign companies, trust me, have people for whom this is their main focus," Saul-Sena said. "Our community has never been beautiful. We're making some strides. This is not as strong a step as we'd like to make."

The agreements settle years of litigation with billboard giants CBS Outdoor and Clear Channel Outdoor.

Negotiations began after the companies sued the city because new rules forced them to take down billboards to improve the look of some roads but offered no options for relocation.

Since then, the industry has seen technological advances allowing companies to use digital billboards to sell one space multiple times, making the signs more profitable.

Earlier this year, the City Council rejected agreements with CBS and Clear Channel that would have allowed them to replace traditional billboards with digital ones that are like giant TV screens and feature constantly changing messages.

Neighborhood groups worried that light from the signs would intrude into their homes and hurt the character of historic districts. So the council and Mayor Pam Iorio decided to pull the digital billboard provisions from the settlement agreements and address them with the city's sign code.

A proposed digital billboard ordinance prohibits the signs in historic districts, limits their light intensity, caps the number of electronic billboards, and determines roads where they are allowed. A workshop on the ordinance is scheduled for next month.

The city of St. Petersburg also is likely to consider an ordinance in December that would allow digital billboards in the city. There, Clear Channel has agreed to remove 100 of its 144 billboards over two years, and limit its digital billboards to 10. Under Tampa's proposed ordinance, Clear Channel would remove 70 traditional billboards and put up 20 digital signs.

Janet Zink can be reached at or (813) 226-3401.

Tampa billboard settlement opens door for digital signs 11/05/09 [Last modified: Friday, November 6, 2009 12:03am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. A long-awaited vision for Tampa's Westshore Marina District

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — More than a decade after plans to develop a vacant waterfront tract were first announced, a new rendering finally gives a hint of what Westshore Marina District will ultimately look like.

    Rendering of Marina Pointe, a condo project overlooking Tampa Bay as part of the Westshore Marina District. [Courtesy of Masterfile Corp.}
  2. Buddy Brew Coffee to open downtown Tampa location


    TAMPA — Buddy Brew Coffee plans to open a new location in downtown Tampa at Park Tower. The specialty coffee craft roaster, which was founded in 2010, has five other locations throughout Tampa including the Oxford Exchange, Sarasota, Hyde Park Village and Terminal F inside the Tampa International Airport.

    A cappuccino is displayed at Buddy Brew in Tampa in January 2017. [CHARLIE KAIJO | Times]
  3. What you might have missed in the second episode of the Bucs on 'Hard Knocks'


    We're back for another episode of The Annotated Hard Knocks, trying to find behind-the-scenes insights and things you might have missed in Tuesday's second episode of "Hard Knocks," following the Bucs in …

    As the crowd recognized him and got loud, Jameis Winston jumped up and down in celebration. [GREG AUMAN | Times]
  4. Review: 'The Defenders' brings out the best in Marvel's unlikeliest heroes


    The ties that bind Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist run deep. But they're just starting to figure all that out in The Defenders.

    Mike Colter, Scott Glenn, Finn Jones, Krysten Ritter and Charlie Cox in The Defenders.
  5. Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson can't keep 'The Hitman's Bodyguard' on-target


    The Hitman's Bodyguard is an assault tank on semi-automatic pilot, spraying jokes and bullets with only the ammo consistently hitting its targets. The irresistible teaming of Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson might be even funnier if they missed once in a while.

    Samuel L. Jackson, left, and Ryan Reynolds star in "The Hitman's Bodyguard." (Lionsgate)