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City Council Approves New Rules For Billboards in City of Philadelphia

By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Philadelphia City Council today gave final approval to a sweeping overhaul of the city's billboard regulations.  The end result could be fewer billboards overall, but more of them would be digital.

The vote was 15-0 as Council approved a top-to-bottom rewrite of billboard regulations that was three years in the making.  The sponsor, Councilman Bobby Henon, says the end result is a lot of compromise between community groups and the billboard industry.

"I've heard from community groups throughout the city.  I've heard from every stakeholder that was involved, including the outdoor advertising industry.  At some point, you must move forward.  Not everybody's going to be happy.  But most people are satisfied with what is in this piece of legislation," Henon (below) said.

henon screen_cap 2013-06-19
(Philadelphia city councilman Bobby Henon, in 2013 file photo. Image from City of Phila. TV)


A key feature of the bill is that existing static billboards could be converted to digital in certain parts of the city, as long as the owner removes two other static billboards.

"In order to convert, there's a sign 'credit,' where you take down two of the cluttery static signs that may be in our commercial corridors," Henon explained.  "In return, that would allow them to digitize a billboard if it's in conformity (with existing regulations)."

The measure states that a digital billboard may not be within 1,000 feet of a residential neighborhood, and may be no closer than 500 feet from another billboard.

The new law also caps the brightness of the digital signs, and imposes new licensing fees on the billboard owners.   In the end, Henon says, the city should have fewer billboards in total, but more of them will be digital.

"Less clutter of billboards in our neighborhoods.  Possibly new digitals in places that are not intrusive to the community," he said.

The measure was amended last November and had sat for five months on Council's calendar awaiting a final vote.  It now goes to the mayor.

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