Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Billboard Companies' Moves Are Flashing Signs of Trouble

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Billboard Companies' Moves Are Flashing Signs of Trouble

Article excerpt

This is getting mighty tiresome.

The powerful billboard industry once again is trying to get the Legislature to undo what local governments and local voters have done in Florida -- try to erase the visual blight of billboard pollution in their communities.

You may remember that during last year's legislative session, the billboard industry, which has been cozying up to legislators for years by funneling massive amounts of money into their campaigns, tried to sneak through an amendment that in effect would have gutted local efforts to regulate billboards.

When their ploy was uncovered, enough ruckus was raised that the amendment didn't pass, but -- guess what -- it's back again this year in another form.

This time basically the same provisions were included in the body of a transportation bill introduced on March 8 by Rep. David Russell, R-Brooksville, the chair of the House Transportation Committee.

Some background might be helpful here:

In 1987, voters in Jacksonville approved an amendment to the city charter that restricted the size and placement of billboards and required others to be taken down.

Other counties in Florida have since followed suit and passed ordinances regulating billboards.

As you might imagine, the billboard industry, which is now basically controlled by three mega-companies, doesn't like the local regulations so it has turned to its pals in the Legislature for help.

Last year's amendment and this year's bill would require that local governments pay full compensation for billboards that are required to be taken down or downsized.

Local governments currently can rely on amortization plans that give billboard owners a number of years, in some cases decades, to earn revenue from their signs before they have to be taken down.

Doing away with the amortization option would make it cost prohibitive for local governments to regulate billboards. …

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