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Public hearing on billboards slated

Published Sep. 29, 2005

The ordinance to ban all new billboards along county roads was formally introduced Tuesday.

County commissioners stayed on the billboard course Tuesday evening when they agreed to move forward on a proposal that would ban all new outdoor advertising signs in Pasco County.

Commissioners set the first required public hearing on the ban for next month. A temporary billboard moratorium is in place while commissioners iron out new regulations for the signs.

The ordinance formally introduced on Tuesday would apply only to new billboards. Current billboards would be allowed to stand unless they are vacant of advertising for a year.

At Commissioner David "Hap" Clark's request, Assistant County Attorney Barbara Wilhite said she will research whether the county can require billboards with out-of-date advertisements, such as former political candidates or businesses that have closed, to come down as well.

Commissioners had been scheduled last week to vote on rules that would have spelled out where future billboards could go. Instead they agreed, in principle, to ban new billboards after viewing maps of proposed scenic corridors where new billboards would be banned anyway.

Commissioners decided they liked the third option best, in which nearly every major road in Pasco, 60 total, would be designated a scenic corridor.

At the urging of Interim County Attorney Robert Sumner and County Administrator John Gallagher, commissioners decided simply to pursue a ban on billboards on all roads in the the county.

Both Gallagher and Sumner agreed that it would be easier to enforce a complete ban on billboards than to try to defend in court the inclusion of some roads in the list of scenic corridors and not others.

Two weeks ago, before agreeing to look at a ban, commissioners hammered out several compromises on proposed regulations they hoped would limit the outdoor signs along Pasco's roadways.

Those compromises included limiting most billboards to a height of 35 feet instead of 40 and requiring the signs to be placed 2,500 feet apart instead of 1,500.