Philadelphia could see fewer billboards - but more digital displays - under a set of revamped regulations up for vote next week.
The changes, slated for a council-wide vote next Thursday, balances requests from the outdoor advertising industry with those of neighborhood and safe-driving advocates, said Councilman Bobby Henon, who sponsored the legislation.
City Council first proposed a billboard law more than a year ago but both sides voiced concerns, leading to this most recent set of revisions.
"I think it's a very good, complimentary, bill that everyone has weighed in on," Henon said.
The bill requires companies to remove two regular billboards for each billboard they want to convert to digital form.
It sets brightness limits on the digital displays.
George Kroculick, co-chair of Duane Morris' Real Estate Practice Group which represents Clear Channel Communications, said the amendments include many positives for the billboard industry.
"On behalf of the entire billboard industry, we thank the Council for continuing to work so hard to try to understand the issues the billboard industry faces. We are very grateful to have rules we can understand that put everyone on an even playing field," Kroculick said.
Mary Tracy, a longtime critic of billboards, maintained they are "a burden and a blight to the neighborhoods," but commended the 2:1 conversion.
Tracy asked the city to prioritize bringing down billboards in violation of city code.
"I think you're never going to please both sides." Tracy said. "But we were really concerned about the brightness of these signs and it's come down."
Tracy estimated the city has about 1,900 billboards, though city officials could not confirm that number Thursday.
The new regulations also require ad companies to pay a higher square footage fee, which could bring in $350,000 annually for the city. A second ordinance aims to increase the taxes companies pay by one percent.
In turn, the billboard owners can construct and modify their own signs without going through the city and increase the height of their signs in certain cases if they become obstructed.
Additional provisions include limits on height, proximity to residential neighborhoods and the time between digital display changes.
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