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City Council lights the way for more digital billboards

Council paves way for more digital billboards; for every digital board that goes up, two old boards must come down.

CITY COUNCIL yesterday unanimously approved a bill that will result in more digital billboards in the city.

Sponsored by Councilmen Bobby Henon and William Greenlee, the bill requires a 2-to-1 digital conversion ratio in certain areas.

That means, when an advertiser wants to convert a traditional billboard into a digital billboard, it would have to take down two traditional billboards to do so.

The bill also places a cap on how bright digital billboards can be and how frequently the signs change and prohibits the signs from being within 500 feet of residential neighborhoods and from facing a neighborhood within 1,000 feet.

The legislation also increases licensing fees for advertisers.

"The bill represents compromise between a multitude of stakeholders - from community groups to advertising companies to advocacy groups. In the end, everyone gave up a little to get to this point, and now Philadelphia has common-sense outdoor advertising legislation that should go a long way in cleaning up our neighborhoods and commercial corridors," Henon said.

Also yesterday, Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown introduced a bill aimed at providing new funding to the cash-strapped School District of Philadelphia.

The bill offers a $1 credit off of the business income and receipts tax for every $5 a business donates to the district through a contribution agreement.

If a business donates $1 million to the school district, it would receive a $200,000 reduction on its business taxes, explained Brown, who said the bill is an alternative funding means to Mayor Nutter's proposed 9.4 percent property tax increase.

"Before we get to the school district budget hearings, my office is continuing to explore alternative, recurring new dollars for the school district, of which this will be," she said of the legislation.

Meanwhile, as the city and Comcast continue to negotiate the terms of the company's 15-year franchise renewal agreement, Nutter yesterday released the dates and times of six forums, where members of the public can weigh in.

"Public feedback from Comcast subscribers and residents is critical to the process," Nutter said in a statement.

The meetings are:

April 28:

*  PCI Library, 1905 Locust St., noon to 2 p.m.

*  South Philadelphia High School, 2101 S. Broad St., 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

April 29:

* MaST Charter School, 1800 E. Byberry Road, 5-7 p.m.

April 30:

* Community Center at Visitation, 2646 Kensington Ave., noon to 2 p.m.

*  Martin Luther King High School, 6100 Stenton Ave., 5-7 p.m.

May 2:

* Bible Way Baptist Church, 1323 N. 52nd St., noon to 2 p.m.