It looks like the King County Council will vote next week to allow digital billboards.
(T)the bold new electronic future is coming to this county’s roadsides. On Sept. 13, a County Council committee that three months ago had deferred a measure to allow the image-shuffling, television-like electronic signs quietly considered an amended version. Councilmembers Larry Phillips, Jane Hague, Pete von Reichbauer, Bob Ferguson, and Joe McDermott voted unanimously to approve it, clearing the way for full council approval this coming Monday.
And the King County Council’s hearings on its billboard bill have passed with scanty media fanfare or public notice. Only two Clear Channel executives showed up at an initial June 6 hearing. (Paula) Rees and officials from suburban cities affected by the measure protested at getting no notice. The council committee heard their objections at a hastily scheduled second hearing in June. But the committee members remained highly impressed with the billboards’ emergency-messaging applications…
The council members did amend their ordinance to make Clear Channel commit in writing to providing the emergency services it promised. And they refined it in other ways: It will allow digital boards only in urban, not rural areas, and require shorter pauses between their shuffling images, ostensibly to reduce distraction…
The new version satisfies three of four suburban cities that objected to the old ones. Renton, Burien, Tukwila, and Federal Way ban or restrict digital billboards but fear getting stuck with them when they annex county territory where Clear Channel would likely install. The ordinance now gives them veto power in prospective annexation areas until 2015. Renton, Burien, and Tukwila withdrew their opposition. Federal Way’s stuck — it doesn’t expect to complete its annexation by that deadline — but it’s not going to fight over it.
A quick review of the proposed King County ordinance language shows interesting language on lighting, an issue Tacomans have said they are concerned about. The new ordinance, while providing some parameters on digital billboard lighting, exempts digital billboards from existing rules that forbid illuminated signs from shining direct light into homes or onto public areas.
Meanwhile, here’s a quick update on the City of Tacoma’s fight with Clear Channel Outdoor. In August, the city asked a Pierce County judge formally declare its settlement agreement with Clear Channel dead. On Sept. 16, Clear Channel notified the court that it’s asking to have the case moved to federal court. That’s where Clear Channel sued the city in 2007 and then dropped that suit last year after it and the city negotiated a settlement.
In its petition to move the action back to federal court, Clear Channel makes arguments that confirm it considers the settlement agreement as a legally binding contract. It also provides a new number for the value of the signs Tacoma has said the company must remove.
Contrary to the requirements of the Settlement Agreement, the (city’s newest ordinance banning digital billboards and requiring others to be removed) does not make any provision for just compensation, and the City has not offered any compensation. Through its actions, the City has made clear that it has no intent to comply with its contractual obligations under the Settlement Agreement … The fair market value of the affected signs is in excess of $75 million.