St. Petersburg May Allow Digital Boards

Gail Chiasson, North American Editor

The city council of St. Petersburg, Florida, is currently in discussions on zoning changes to allow digital billboards, but protestors at last week’s council meeting were determined to argue against the boards, bring up the same old arguments of ‘wasting energy and causing car accidents’.

What with DOOH developers consistently making their products consume less and less energy, and with numerous research reports disproving that DOOH signage are the cause of accidents, it makes one wonder while all city governments, before considering DOOH, don’t get their hands on such information so as to refute such arguments on the spot. Or perhaps any company being considered for DOOH should make sure that they provide copies of such material to all involved.

Tampa, Miami, Orlando and other Florida cities are now allowing digital billboards and we understand that Chris Steinocher, president and chief executive of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, said publicly that the city should pass its own laws on digital billboards in the event that the state Legislature issues statewide digital billboard legislation in the future.

St. Petersburg is looking at allowing digital boards near the three interstate highways that go through the city – Interstate 275, Interstate 375 and Interstate 175. Two companies, Clear Channel Outdoor and CBS Outdoor, are apparently willing to take down a percentage of their existing traditional boards in return for being allowed to put up digital boards.

Clear Channel, the city’s largest billboard advertiser, would take down 80 of its 128 signs peppered throughout the city and, in exchange, would be able to put up eight digital billboards. And those eight digital billboards have to replace already-existing traditional ones that are among the 48 left.

CBS could erect one digital board after removing 14 traditional boards.

The digital signs would be limited in size (14’ x 48’), length of ads (at least 10 seconds) and location – including being 2,500 feet apart and situated so that a driver could not read more than one digital sign at a time.

And, in what is now more or less standard, the city would be able to use the digital billboards for public service announcements, such as Amber Alerts and hurricane evacuation notices, and to promote events sponsored or co-sponsored by the city.

The city’s mayor, Bill Foster, is apparently keen on the digital boards. St. Petersburg’s Council of Neighborhood Associations is against them claiming digital billboards would degrade and change the character of the city. The Federal Highway Administration is apparently doing yet another on the effects digital billboards have on drivers’ ability to see and pay attention to what they are doing. (Ah, the money that is being spent on study after study across the nation on the same topic! Ed.)

Steinocher said that the boards offer an opportunity to capture a lot of visitors in the community to drive resources to St. Petersburg’s restaurants and special events.

The city council voted 5-3 to allow the deal to move forward to a second public hearing on Aug. 18. But some council members who voted to move it forward stressed that they didn’t support the ordinance in its current form and called for revisions. They’ve asked city administrators to look at inserting a ‘sunset clause’ into agreements with billboard companies so that the city could re-evaluate the deal.

Clear Channel officials are confident a deal can be worked out.

One Response to “St. Petersburg May Allow Digital Boards”

  1. Don Wright Says:

    So an independent will not be allowed to compete in the market, only established companies.
    Would that not violate property rights by requiring a land owner to deal with only two vendors. And could not even build their own Digital Billboard on their own property?

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