New bid made for Downtown electronic billboards
Dec 06, 2011 (Menafn - The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --Lamar Advertising wants to put up 20 electronic billboards around Pittsburgh in an attempt to take advantage of what it believes is a legal technicality in legislation that places a moratorium on electronic signs.
Downtown attorney Jonathan Kamin, who represents Baton Rouge, La.-based Lamar, said City Council two weeks ago amended a bill that limits electronic signage in Pittsburgh. By doing that, he said, council effectively ended the moratorium. Lamar has since applied to the city zoning department to convert 20 existing billboards to electronic formats, he said.
Council, however, disagrees with Kamin's legal reasoning, and the advocacy group Scenic Pittsburgh said it would go to court to stop Lamar.
"We will file an injunction asking that the 20 applications be enjoined from happening until the legislation is finalized, however long that takes," said Mike Dawida, executive director of Scenic Pittsburgh, a nonprofit that advocates for preservation of the region's scenic beauty.
Councilman Doug Shields of Squirrel Hill said the legislation does not impact the moratorium, which was drafted separately and still stands. The city law department is formulating an opinion, but Solicitor Daniel Regan otherwise declined to comment.
The billboard debate began in 2008 when Lamar erected an electronic sign on the Grant Street Transportation Center, Downtown, triggering protests from residents and prompting council to adopt the moratorium. City officials stopped construction of the sign, contending the company lacked proper permits from the city. Lamar removed the sign this year after exhausting legal appeals.
The controversy triggered the resignation of former Urban Redevelopment Executive Director Pat Ford in 2008. Ford negotiated a deal with Lamar to remove six vinyl Downtown billboards in exchange for permission to erect the electronic sign on the transportation center.
Council drafted the sign legislation in response. In September, council scheduled a public hearing to debate the pros and cons of electronic billboards. The legislation under consideration permitted electronic signs in certain areas. Kamin said it amounted to four or five places in the city with the exception of Downtown.
Council amended that bill on Nov. 21.
"When they did that, that technically killed the moratorium and killed all of the different legislation that was pending, so we went ahead and filed in that interim window," Kamin said.
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