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Tag: billboards


Lawmakers look to allow digital billboards on state highways

A bill introduced in the Legislature this week would allow what the Tacoma City Council has refused: digital billboards.

Billboard owner Clear Channel is asking lawmakers to allow digital signs along Washington’s state highways.

The state Senate last year voted for a similar measure, but it didn’t pass the House. This year’s bill, sponsored by Des Moines Democrat Dave Upthegrove, will start in the House. It would allow “static” signs that hold the same picture, without flashing or showing videos.

A Clear Channel lobbyist said the company is trying to replace existing traditional signs, not put up new ones.

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Tacoma City Council cracks down on billboards, ditching legal settlement with Clear Channel

Tacoma’s City Council called today for quick removal of at least 190 billboards, and possibly dozens more, reigniting a legal fight with sign owner Clear Channel Outdoor.

The council voted 7-1, with Joe Lonergan opposed and Spiro Manthou absent, to tighten zoning restrictions for billboards, set a new deadline for removal of those that don’t comply, and ban the modern versions that switch messages electronically.

By keeping digital billboards out of Tacoma, the council backs out of a legal settlement with Clear Channel that it had approved unanimously last year.

The agreement called for allowing Clear Channel to put up digital boards in exchange for tearing down traditional signs that don’t conform to the law. Though that part of the deal will now be defunct, the agreement also calls on the city to pay Clear Channel the market value of billboards the company is forced to remove outside the agreement. That could be ammunition for a court challenge.

“This has the potential to cost the taxpayers millions of dollars,” Michael Mayes, Clear Channel Outdoor’s Seattle real estate director, told the council tonight. “It opens the city up to additional legal exposure and significant financial risk.”

Councilmen David Boe and Marty Campbell proposed the law, which doubles the required space between billboards and places like residential districts, parks, churches, schools and historic districts.

City planners say they haven’t determined how many more signs will become “nonconforming” under the proposed rules. Staff had determined roughly 193 of the city’s 253 billboard faces didn’t conform to the old rules.

All nonconforming signs would have to be removed within six months. Permits that allow companies to replace a demolished billboard in a new spot would expire after a year. Clear Channel holds 169 of those relocation permits. Read more »


Clear Channel finalizes billboard settlement as reminder for Tacoma council

With the Tacoma City Council backtracking on its legal settlement with Clear Channel Outdoor, the company said it has signed the agreement and officially put it into effect.

The council unanimously approved the settlement that allows Clear Channel to erect digital billboards in exchange for taking down traditional signs. After public complaints, the council backed off. It’s now considering an explicit ban on digital billboards and ordering Clear Channel to take down its traditional signs that violate city laws, as part of a revamp of the sign code.

The settlement says in the event of such a removal order, “the city will compensate Clear Channel for the fair market value of those interests.”

Clear Channel spokesman Tim Thompson said by signing the agreement this week, the company reaffirms its support for the settlement and reminds the city about that requirement for “compensation.”

“The steps the City Council was taking were obviously contradictory to the agreement,” Thompson said.

The company has threatened to sue if the agreement is violated. Thompson declined to talk about future lawsuits; the company remains open to negotiation, he said.

Here’s Clear Channel’s news release and the agreement:



Proposed Tacoma billboard-ban ordinance released

Billboard critics and boosters have some reading to do if they want to talk at this evening’s Tacoma City Council meeting. A new proposal made public this afternoon by members David Boe and Marty Campbell will be on the agenda.

But a vote won’t happen for at least another week, and likely longer. There will be more opportunity to testify — if there’s anything that hasn’t already been said during many long hours of public comment on the contentious billboard issue.

Boe and Campbell’s proposal adopts the city Planning Commission’s call for largely maintaining 1997 restrictions on signs, and adding an explicit ban on digital billboards.

It would give billboard owner Clear Channel six months to take down billboards that don’t comply — as many as 193 of its roughly 250 signs.

Within a year, permits that have been awarded to the company to put up relocated billboards would expire.

Campbell said some kind of incentives may be considered to help with the removal of billboards. And City Attorney Elizabeth Pauli said some of the new restrictions would require the city to compensate owners.

By approving the measure, the council would be bowing out of a settlement with Clear Channel it approved last year that would have allowed the company to erect up to 38 electronic billboards in exchange for giving up its traditional billboards and permits.

Some on the council, including Mayor Marilyn Strickland, still favor an exchange of digital for traditional billboards. Others, including Jake Fey and Ryan Mello, side with Boe and Campbell against the digital signs. Read more »


Tacoma: Clear Channel exec “encouraged” that billboards settlement can still be reached

As we reported yesterday, a proposed settlement that would allow digital billboards in Tacoma appears almost dead.

During a study session with the city’s planning commission Tuesday, the Tacoma City Council accepted recommendations that roundly reject terms of that settlement, and instead call to add language prohibiting digital billboards and to  retain restrictions on traditional billboards under a 1997 ordinance.

Even the council’s most vocal supporter of digital billboards, Mayor Marilyn Strickland, conceded that “a lot” of the controversial settlement’s terms “won’t work.”

I was unable to reach Olivia Lippens, president of Clear Channel Outdoor’s Seattle division, for comment

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Tacoma: Council signals proposed billboard settlement with Clear Channel nearly dead

If a proposed settlement that would allow digital billboards in the City of Tacoma isn’t dead yet, it’s now on life support.

When accepting recommendations from the planning commission today that roundly reject the terms of the city’s controversial settlement with billboard giant Clear Channel Outdoor, Tacoma City Council members individually offered some minor suggestions and opinions, but made no formal objections as a body.

Two council members – Jake Fey and David Boe – voiced their current leanings that oppose the city allowing digital billboards.

And even Mayor Marilyn Strickland – who remains staunchly supportive of such digital advertising – opened today’s joint study session on the billboards issue with conciliatory remarks.

“We understand and respect that some people don’t like the settlement agreement,” Strickland said. “… We now understand that a lot of these terms won’t work.”

But while signaling that the city now appears to be headed down a different track – one that may largely defend a 1997 city ordinance that calls to eliminate most traditional billboards – council and commission members still left open the possibility for allowing some digital billboards in Tacoma one day.

“I don’t think our recommendation should be taken to say that digital billboards should forever be prohibited in the City of Tacoma,” planning commission member Don Erickson told the council.

With no clear direction given by the council today, city staff will now move forward in a public process to formalize the commission’s recommendations into an updated billboards code, said Donna Stenger, a city planner.

Next Tuesday, the council is expected to formally set a date for a public hearing – tentatively set for July 19 — on an updated billboard code. The council will then begin considering the measure on July 26, with final vote set for August 2.

Olivia Lippens, president for Clear Channel Outdoor’s Seattle division, has yet to return a phone call or email seeking comment today.  Lippens previously has said that her company will sue if the city didn’t enact the settlement.

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Tacoma: Planning Commission wanted to recommend “digital billboards be prohibited outright”

Just before the City Council stepped in to consider a billboard moratorium as a way to “buy more time” for city decision-makers, Tacoma’s planning commission was poised to issue recommendations this month that would call for banning digital billboards altogether in the city.

After discussing options to allow the electronic advertising signs during their meeting on May 4, planning commissioners ultimately decided “that their preferred recommndation was that digital billboards be prohibited outright,” meeting minutes show.

“This is the recommendation that they would like to forward to the Council, and (city staffer) Ms. (Shirley) Schultz indicated that an appropriate code amendment would be prepared to accompany the report and recommendation.”

Those recommendations run counter to a proposed settlement agreement that the City Council forged with Clear Channel Outdoor last July that seek to allow the company to build as many as 38 digital billboards in the city. That agreement has an Aug. 15 deadline.

The planning commission is on the verge of finishing its report and recommendations, and likely would have given them to the council some time after its meeting on Wednesday, Schultz, the city staffer assigned to the commission, told me Monday.

But now, with the city council stepping in to float a billboard moratorium just before the commission had delivered its recommendation,  it’s unclear what the commission’s future involvement in the billboard issue will be. The council will discuss and vote on the moratorium ordinance tonight, during its regular meeting in City Hall at 5 p.m.  Citizens can comment on the issue.

Several council members have said they plan to consider the 6-month moratorium on any new billboards as a way to give the planning commission more time for considering potential changes to the city’s billboard code.

According to recent meeting minutes posted on the city’s website, planning commissioners have been concerned about the council and mayor’s expectations for their work in reviewing proposed changes to the city’s billboard regulations that would allow for Clear Channel’s settlement terms.

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Clear Channel exec: City’s proposed billboard moratorium could lead to “costly litigation”

As we reported on Friday,  the Tacoma City Council is planning to consider tomorrow a 6-month moratorium on any new billboards in the city.

It’s a move some council members say is meant to buy them and other city officials more time in considering controversial changes to the city’s billboard regulations.

(If approved, the proposed moratorium won’t affect an approaching deadline for accepting the terms of a settlement agreement now facing the city. Under the settlement, Clear Channel Outdoor could build up to 38 new digital billboards if it removes up to 253 conventional ones and gives up permits to about 160 more.  The advertising company in turn would agree not to pursue a lawsuit against the city. The city has until Aug. 15 to pass new billboard regulations that would allow for the settlement’s terms.)

When word of the proposed moratorium broke on Friday, I called Olivia Lippens, President of Clear Channel Outdoor’s Seattle division, for comment.  She told me she had just learned of the proposed moratorium and had not had the chance to review or discuss it with city officials.  Once she did that, Lippens said, she’d provide me with a statement.

This afternoon, Lippens emailed me her statement.  The gist of it?  Clear Channel is none-too-happy with the moratorium idea. And, once again, the company is threatening to sue.

Here’s Lippens’ full statement:

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