Residents say billboard restrictions not enough

December 10, 2008

After hearing nearly a dozen citizens speak in opposition to a revised ordinance to limit billboards in the city during Monday night’s public hearing, Akron City Council will take more time to re-think the legislation.

The ordinance was originally scheduled for public hearing one week ago, but was pulled for text changes and resubmitted. The revised ordinance would change the permit class for billboards and outdoor advertising displays from retail business use to conditional use, limit billboards to a maximum height of 35 feet and allow conversions to digital billboards.

Even though those changes were recommended in response to resident complaints about billboards, all but one of the residents who spoke at last night’s public hearing wanted further restrictions, including an extended moratorium on new billboards, more citizen input before a billboard goes up in a neighborhood and limits on digital billboards out of concerns for distractions they may cause motorists.

A billboard company representative also spoke in opposition to the ordinance. David Yale, Vice President of Public Affairs at Clearchannel Outdoor in Cleveland, cited potential harm to his business and to Akron-area advertisers who rely on billboards to sell to targeted audiences if limits are imposed.

Several of the speakers at the public hearing cited various studies which supported or refuted their respective positions on the aesthetic, safety and property-value impacts of billboards.

Council does not expect to extend the 90-day moratorium on billboards that expires Jan. 9, but Economic Development and Job Creation Committee Chair Terry Albanese (W-6) said her committee – which sponsored the legislation – will take time to research the studies cited.

“I want to research the visual impact of billboards, especially the impacts of digital billboards,” Albanese said. “Residents are right to be concerned about the added distraction that digital billboards may create."