Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa may allow more digital billboards along major roads

TAMPA — Nearly two years after Tampa allowed the first digital billboards to rise along its highways and major roads, more could be on the horizon.

When city officials first opened the door to electronic billboards in 2010, they made what an industry representative calls a "pay-to-play" arrangement with two big outdoor advertising companies.

Under the city's ordinance, Clear Channel Outdoor and CBS Outdoor could put up six electronic billboards each. But for each new digital face, they had to take down or give up the rights to 10 old-fashioned billboards. And the removals had to be permanent.

Those rules helped the city settle a legal battle with Clear Channel and CBS that had dragged on for years. At the time of the vote, City Council members said they would take a couple of years to see how things worked out, then maybe revisit the issue.

So far, Tampa has approved nine digital billboards: six for Clear Channel and three for CBS, which is allowed three more. All face major roads: Interstate 275, Interstate 4, Fowler Avenue and Channelside Drive.

In February, development consultant Todd Pressman, representing Clear Channel, reminded the council that it had been nearly two years, and the city hadn't received a single complaint about a digital billboard, so why not expand the deal?

Council members held a workshop April 26 at which they said, in essence, okay.

Going into the workshop, Clear Channel requested raising the cap to allow eight additional digital billboards. As a result of the original deal, Pressman said, the company had taken down 48 traditional billboards.

"It's eliminating signs that would never have come down," he said last week. Not only is it a scenic improvement, he said, but the company makes the electronic billboards available to local, state and federal authorities for public service announcements, bulletins about wanted felons and emergency alerts.

Council members agreed, with Mary Mulhern absent at the vote, to instruct the city attorney's office to write up a change to the ordinance: The cap on electronic billboards would go from six to 14 for each company. As before, companies would have to give up 10 traditional billboards for each new electronic one.

Pressman said Clear Channel could make the trade: 80 traditional billboards for eight new, electronic ones.

"There's a large inventory in Tampa," he said.

The city's other existing restrictions on electronic billboards will remain in place. For example, digital billboards that face the same direction would still have to be 2,500 feet apart; the images can't flash, scroll or appear to move; and, depending on the type of road, messages can't change more often than every 10 or 15 seconds.

"Virtually everything else is remaining the same," senior assistant city attorney Julia Cole said Friday.

She still has to bring a revised ordinance with the new cap back to the council for approval. She expects that will probably happen in June. The council then would have to vote twice to approve the change, with the second vote coming after a public hearing.

Although Tampa council members took the first move to raise the cap with relatively little discussion, the topic of electronic billboards stirs debate elsewhere.

In St. Petersburg, the City Council last August narrowly rejected a deal that would have removed 80 traditional billboards and replaced another six with digital faces. Last week, the president of Clear Channel's Tampa Bay division said the company would try again this summer. Meanwhile, one St. Petersburg council member who helped kill the deal said the decision was "the worst vote I ever made."

Richard Danielson can be reached at or (813) 226-3403.

>>Fast Facts

Designated roads for digital billboards

Under Tampa's code, digital billboards can go up only along these designated major roads:

• Interstates 4 and 275

• Property facing Dale Mabry Highway owned by the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, the Tampa Sports Authority or Hillsborough Community College

• Hillsborough Avenue from the Veterans Expressway to Dale Mabry Highway

• Fowler Avenue from I-275 to McKinley Street

• Busch Boulevard from

I-275 to 40th Street

• Channelside Drive from Adamo Drive to Florida Avenue

• Tampa Street from I-275 to the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway

• Kennedy Boulevard from Florida Avenue to Meridian Street

• Florida Avenue from Tyler Street to the Selmon Expressway

• Memorial Highway

Tampa may allow more digital billboards along major roads 05/05/12 [Last modified: Saturday, May 5, 2012 4:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Trump asked intelligence chiefs to push back against FBI collusion probe after Comey revealed its existence


    President Donald Trump asked two of the nation's top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government, current and former officials said, according to the Washington Post.

    After President Donald Trump fired James Comey, shown here, as FBI director, the Washington Post is reporting, Trump made separate appeals to the director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, and to Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election.
  2. For Gov. Rick Scott, 'fighting' could mean vetoing entire state budget

    State Roundup

    Every day, Gov. Rick Scott is getting a lot of advice.

    The last time a Florida governor vetoed the education portion of the state budget was in 1983. Gov. Bob Graham blasted fellow Democrats for their “willing acceptance of mediocrity.”
  3. Romano: Time is up chief, make a call on police body cameras


    Excuse me chief, but it's time to take a stand.

    St. Petersburg police Chief Tony Holloway
  4. Potential new laws further curb Floridians' right to government in the Sunshine

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — From temporarily shielding the identities of murder witnesses to permanently sealing millions of criminal and arrest records, state lawmakers did more this spring than they have in all but one of the past 22 years to chip away at Floridians' constitutional guarantees to access government records and …

    The Legislature passed 17 new exemptions to the Sunshine Law, according to a tally by the First Amendment Foundation.
  5. Fennelly: This season's Chris Archer is a pleasure to watch

    The Heater


    At this time last season, through 10 starts, Rays pitcher Chris Archer was 3-5 on his way to 9-19.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer (22) throwing in the first inning of the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, May 21, 2017.