With City Council vote, digital billboards coming to St. Pete

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With a unanimous vote late Thursday night, the St. Petersburg City Council passed an ordinance that will lead to the removal of 83 static billboard faces across St. Petersburg by the end of the year, reports William Mansell of Patch.

The approved 20-year agreement with Clear Channel allows for six digital billboards to be placed near the interstate once all 83 static billboards are removed.

Digital Billboard Locations:

  • I-275 and Gandy
  • I-275 and Gandy
  • I-275 and 13th Avenue N
  • I-275 and 22nd Street S *(Could be moved)*
  • I-275 and 4th Avenue S
  • 175 and 12th Street S

All of the static billboards on 4th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. St and most in the Grand Central District will be removed.

“We have gotten 45 or so billboards down in the last decade,” said council member Karl Nurse of billboards being removed because of redevelopment. “If we continued having them come down (at that rate), we’d be done in 30 years. Or, we can get two-thirds of them down this year.”

After nearly two hours of public forum comments, council addressed Tom O’Neill, Vice President, Real Estate and Public Affairs with Clear Channel.

During questioning, council members were able to get multiple concessions from O’Neil and Clear Channel including:

  • Adding three additional static billboard faces (80 to 83) that would be removed
  • That city staff and Clear Channel would meet to discuss moving the proposed digital billboard near the Carter G. Woodson Museum and Jordan Park to somewhere else near I-275
  • Increasing the city’s revenue share from 12.5 percent to 15 percent.

Council member Wengay Newton said a majority of the billboards are located in south St. Pete and if the city could get rid of two-thirds of the static billboards it should.

“I think this has been a good negotiation and I think getting rid of these 83 billboards is the right thing to do,” said council member Charlie Gerdes.

Like recent polls released, nearly two-thirds of the public commenter’s spoke in favor of the ordinance, citing how the removal of 80-plus static billboards would beautify the city.

Those opposed to the ordinance, most of which where heads of neighborhood associations, cited the wish to remove all billboards not just the 83.

Jay Marshall, president of the Old Northeast Neighborhood Association, said digital billboards also pose a safety risk.

“Looking at digital billboards as I’m traveling down the highway, it really does capture one’s attention,” Marshall said.

He said the city should get research to see if digital billboards pose by distracting drivers and causing accidents. “We need to focus on that before we move ahead,” Marshall said.

“We all would like to see these billboards come down,” said CONA member Barbara Heck. “I’m concerned we are moving so fast on this.”

Heck and CONA asked the council to delay its decision while it looked at the billboard ordinance in Clearwater.

That Clearwater ordinance, according to Chief Assistant City Attorney Mark Winn, banned any new billboards being built, but did not allow the city to remove existing billboards.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.