New billboard ordinance passed by narrow margin - Ahwatukee Foothills News: News

New billboard ordinance passed by narrow margin

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Posted: Friday, December 16, 2011 7:00 am | Updated: 1:09 pm, Tue Dec 20, 2011.

Phoenix's new ordinance on billboards narrowly passed City Council on Dec. 7, and Councilman Sal DiCiccio says it will be back.

"There are people passing petitions already," he said. "They'll get the signatures to come back and it'll be overturned. I don't see how anybody in any part of the city will say, ‘Hey let's have more billboards.' I have not seen that rallying cry anywhere."

DiCiccio led the debate on the side voting against the new billboard ordinance. The five council members who approved the ordinance, Claude Mattox, Michael Nowakowski, Tom Simplot, Michael Johnson and Thelda Williams, have the most billboards in their districts. Clear Channel and CBS Outdoors spoke in favor of the new ordinance.

The new ordinance allows billboards along major streets and freeways, except Loop 101 and State Route 51.

Billboards will be restricted to industrial zoning districts and planned urban developments along freeways, most of which is along Interstates 17 and 10.

The new ordinance requires that billboards now be 1,000 feet apart on freeways, 300 feet apart on streets, and 500 feet from residential areas, which is an increase from the previous regulation.

The ordinance also eliminates billboards in C-3 zoning districts, the most intense retail zoning. This, supporters of the ordinance say, makes it fair.

The new ordinance opens up more freeway sites, but restricts signs on streets and residential areas.

The ordinance also says that each time a non-conforming board is changed to digital, the company would have to remove 1,200 square feet of signage from elsewhere. DiCiccio says this is the biggest problem because it doesn't specify where the board that is taken down must come from.

"They say for every billboard they put in they have to take down ‘X' square feet of another billboard, but there are so many billboards in the city," he said. "Let's say, for example, there was one at 48th Street and Elliot Road. If they want to convert it to digital they could take one down in north Phoenix, or just a bad area where they don't want to have one. It makes them tear down a useless asset to build a positive asset for them."

DiCiccio noted that the new ordinance has too many loopholes. Billboard companies can seek zoning variances, which would get a billboard approved by a group outside the City Council, something DiCiccio says would allow them to circumvent the law.

"If it came down to banning them completely or this new policy I would opt to ban them because that's how bad I think this new policy is," he said. "The approach that the four of us took I feel was a more reasonable approach."

DiCiccio voted during the meeting to reaffirm the current billboard policy that has been around since the late 1980s.

"It was a really good policy and one that has worked well for the city of Phoenix for all these years," he said. "I really believe that the ordinance that got passed will create a proliferation of billboards in the city of Phoenix that we don't need. We had an orderly system where you had one or two come in, and it was done in a very logical and orderly way. The new ordinance, I believe, will bring in more billboards."

If the petitioners collect enough signatures the ordinance could be changed by the City Council, or go to a vote.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com

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