Posted: Thursday, March 27th 2014 at 2:21pm
GCC considers reducing number, replacing billboards
By Marc Eggers Staff
GAINESVILLE – The Gainesville City Council is looking at a possible measure that could cut in half the number of billboards in the city, and the request to make that reduction is not being made by an environmental group or community beautification club, but by the primary billboard advertiser in the city.
Tim Hall is with Fairway Outdoor Advertising, one of the nation’s largest privately-held outdoor advertising companies, with operations in 15 states throughout the southeast and the Midwest. In Gainesville they maintain 67 structures.
"What we are proposing is that we would like to take the billboards that we have now and reduce the billboards, the number of billboards, allowing us to put up digitals in certain locations," Hall offered to the City Council at Thursday morning’s work session.
Hall said he has lived in Gainesville for over 25 years, so he was ready for the big-eyed response by the Council when he mentioned the idea of erecting digital billboards.
He quickly pointed to a slide he had displayed on the wall showing one of the digital billboards and said, "This shows what the digital does today. It’s not the bright, flashing signs. We can dim them."
Hall realized most of those at the Council table had probably witnessed, and disliked, some of the early digital billboards motorists would encounter driving into Atlanta on I-85. Their bright displays and rapid motion created a strong distraction and soon came under legislative criticism.
"They would not be bigger than what is existing now," Hall added.
"The other thing that we would do," Hall said, "is it would be attached to the Amber Alert system and also with the police department…or a tornado watch or anything like that."
"There’s a lot of clutter out there,” Hall said. “For every two we’d put one up."
Council asked Hall why his company wanted to reduce the number of billboards. Hall explained, "There are six flips; every ten seconds it would change. So we would put six advertisers up on one sign."
City Manager Kip Padgett pointed out that state law requires the "flips" to be no sooner than every ten seconds.
Mayor Danny Dunagan wanted reassurance that the signs would not be a distraction to drivers. "I’ve seen some of them, like in Atlanta, that are really distracting."
Hall said it would be no brighter than a fixed image with a flood light illuminating it.
Councilman Sam Couvillon said that he had seen some of the newer digital billboards. "I think it will give us a good, better, cleaner look. The (existing) ones that get turned-over a lot…half the time they’re falling off."
Hall offered that with each digital billboard they would first get Council approval. "In the ordinance…we would come to you and…you would have to take a vote. It gives you guys more control over it."
Hall said that if Fairway Outdoor Advertising did not deliver as promised, the Council would be in the position to disallow additional structures.
"State law requires that they be at least 5000-feet apart," Hall said.
Council concurred and instructed the Community Development staff to work out the details and present a Resolution for their consideration at a future work session.
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