Sweeping changes to how Philadelphia regulates billboards, approved by City Council last month after years of wrangling, are now in limbo.

Council on Thursday recalled the proposed regulations in response to an April 13 move by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation reasserting its control over certain outdoor advertising in the city.

"This is unprecedented, for the state to take back its authority for outdoor advertising," said Councilman Bobby Henon, who sponsored the bill to authorize the new regulations. "There's a lot of development taking place in the city over the next couple of years. We want to make sure we get it right."

Philadelphia has had control of billboards along certain roadways, including federal highways, since 1974.

But Erin Waters-Trasatt, a PennDot spokeswoman, said the state was at risk of losing 10 percent of its federal transportation funding if outdoor advertising is not effectively controlled. She said PennDot believes that can be most effectively done by the state.

PennDot is allowing Philadelphia to retain control of advertising along some parts of Market Street, including the locations where Council has approved installation of two large three-dimensional billboards.

Council's bill to revamp the city's billboard regulations would allow companies in certain areas to remove two regular billboards for each billboard they want to convert to digital form. It calls for brightness limits and height restrictions, and would require companies to pay a higher licensing fee that could bring in an extra $350,000 annually to the city.

In turn, billboard owners could construct and modify their signs without going through the city first, and increase the height of their signs in certain cases if they became obstructed.

Henon called the bill a compromise between the billboard industry and antibillboard groups, and said it was "annoying, to say the least," that PennDot was superseding the regulations.

He said he hopes to work with state officials and amend the bill, but he said he did not know if that could happen because he had not spoken to state officials regarding their concerns.


215-854-2730 @TriciaNadolny