By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia City Council today gave final approval to a measure, two years in the making, that overhauls the city’s billboard regulations.
It could lead to more digital billboards, though fewer outdoor signboards overall.
Councilman Bobby Henon had worked on the measure since 2013, finding resistance from outdoor advertising companies and, on the other side, opponents of digital signs.
Now, following lengthy negotiations and numerous amendments, Council has given final approval to the plan.
“This day has finally come, and I’m happy,” Henon said.
This is actually the second time Council has approved the plan. Earlier this spring, Henon recalled the bill before the mayor signed it, because PennDOT had suddenly intervened, claiming jurisdiction over billboards that are near state highways.
Henon admits that even with Council’s second approval, that question is not settled:
“Jurisdiction issues aren’t totally resolved. We have the opportunity to address them over the summer, which I feel confident that we’re going to be able to do.”
A key feature of Henon’s bill is that existing static billboards could be converted to digital in certain parts of the city – as long as the owner removes two other static billboards. Henon believes this will lead to fewer billboards in total, but more of them will be digital.
“The sign industry absolutely knows that there’s nowhere else to build. And what they need to do is declutter our neighborhoods if they want to expand to digital,” Henon said today.
The bill also imposes new restrictions, including limits on the distance of digital billboards from residential neighborhoods, and from other billboards. And it caps the brightness of the digital signs, and imposes new licensing fees on the billboard owners.
The mayor is expected to sign the measure.