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Billboard bill opens old wounds, sparks new debate

6:15 PM, Oct 8, 2013   |    comments
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Jacksonville Elton John fan sends the Rocket Man a message through this billboard on I-95

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville billboards have changed since the debate over fewer billboards began in a quarter century ago.

In 1987 voters decided on a change to city charter setting the frame work for fewer billboards. Attorney Bill Brinton was part of the debate.

"We have said no through a popular vote," said Brinton. "To let the industry rewrite the law for them is hard to believe and it is wrong."

City councilman Richard Clark introduced a bill, which was drafted by the billboard industry, to make changes to the city ordinance.

"What we're trying to accomplish is a simple across the board regulation of an industry that is right now operating over 12 separate agreements made over a decade ago," said Clark.

Clark said contrary to what is being said there will be no increase in billboards. 

"We don't want them to proliferate at all," said Clark. "What we want is to lock in the ability for a two for one down swap.We will continue to have billboard shrink and they're regulated."

What that means is for every new billboard the industry installs it will remove two; Clark said he is looking out for the best interest of the city.

"The other side doesn't want reduction," he said. "It wants complete annihilation of the industry."

On the other side is the Sierra Club. Janet Stanko is chair of the Northeast Florida Chapter.

"Billboards are big bucks, electronic billboards are bigger bucks so they will be pushing as hard as they can," Stanko said. 

The Sierra Club is among those ready to push back.

"It is not good legislation, it is not good for Jacksonville," she said. "And it may cause some property values to decline."

Since 1987 there have been a number of lawsuits regarding the city's billboard, many have ended in settlement agreements.

Apparently some of those agreements have expiration periods and that is one of the reasons behind Clark's bill.

But supporters of the existing law said there's no expiration of what the voters approved in 1987 and they don't want that changed.

Clark's proposed bill is moving through several city council committees and it may be weeks before there's a vote for approval or denial from the Jacksonville City Council.

First Coast News

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