Environmentalists, Advertising Firms Push Their Proposals for Billboard Laws

By Ap | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), February 5, 1995 | Go to article overview

Environmentalists, Advertising Firms Push Their Proposals for Billboard Laws


Ap, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Take a trip across Missouri and you'll soon get the message - more than 13,600 of them plastered on billboards.

To some, the big boards constitute "visual clutter." To others, they are an "economic necessity."

The battle of definitions has been debated in numerous city council chambers, argued in front of state courts and now is being rehashed by the Legislature.

A pair of competing proposals - one pushed by environmentalists, another by advertising agencies - would redefine where, and if, billboards can be placed along Missouri's main highways.

One plan would allow local governments to ban additional billboards. Another simply would let localities enact more restrictions on the signs' size and placement.

The debate is about paper and boards, but it evokes plenty of emotion.

"Personally, I find them offensive," said Rep. Nancy Farmer, D-St. Louis.

"If you drive eastbound on Highway 40, your view of the Arch is blocked some of the time by billboards," said Farmer, whose proposal letting localities bar future signs was heard last week by a House committee. A similar effort by Farmer failed last session.

Not everyone has the same view from their automobile windows.

"I drive the highways a great deal . . . you see large water towers, electronic communication towers, mobile homes, strip shopping centers - outdoor advertising, in many ways, is a lot more attractive," said Roy Saunders, president of the Missouri Outdoor Advertising Association, which represents billboard companies.

Cities can limit the size and scope of most billboards through zoning codes. But billboards along interstates and other major highways - even within city limits - must get permits from the Missouri Department of Highways and Transportation.

Several dozen cities have placed moratoriums on building more billboards. But the legality of those bans was brought into question in October 1993 by the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District. The court overturned a St. Louis ordinance prohibiting new billboards, saying that state statutes did not give cities such authority.

Farmer's legislation and a similar Senate bill are designed to reverse that ruling. …

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