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City Council mulls new rules for billboards

Bobby Henon calls his bill a big compromise that satisfies both residents and advertisers

A PROPOSAL floated in City Council yesterday could be a win-win for billboard advertisers as well as the people who hate them.

Councilman Bobby Henon is pushing for an overhaul of the city's regulations on billboards - a proposal that may lead to more digital signs and reduce the number of static ones.

Henon yesterday introduced an amendment to a bill he first put forth last year that essentially sets new standards for the location, maintenance, licensing and illumination of billboards. It also offers incentives for advertisers to convert their fixed billboards to digital, which he says will generate new revenue for the city and reduce urban clutter. The plan includes a two-for-one swap - one new digital billboard in exchange for every two taken down. "It is very much a compromise," said Henon.

"There is a dimming [provision] to regulate the brightness [of the digital billboards] . . . at all times" so they are not overbearing for motorists and residents, he added. The bill "also sets regulations on the embellishments that can be put on them."

Anti-blight activists seem satisfied.

Mary Tracy spoke during Council's public comment period and thanked Henon for his efforts.

"Frankly, the billboards are a burden and a blight to neighborhoods, and I think that the councilman is trying to do the best that he can to make this more palpable," she said.

The bill would:

* Allow billboard owners to increase the height of their sign if a government entity erects a barrier that blocks its visibility.

* Limit sign embellishments and extensions.

* Restrict the location of the digital signs so that they cannot go within 500 feet of homes and cannot face homes within 1,000 feet of them.

* Create sign illumination standards that would mandate when the signs should be bright or dim.

* Increase sign licensing fees and establish new license application requirements.

Henon's bill is up for final passage next week, at Council's last session before winter break.