At last night’s planning commission meeting, reference was made to the electronic billboard that sits in Dewitt but “graces” the eastern entrance to Eastwood. It was used in an argument as a precedent for allowing the LED sign at Walgreens. Oh boy. Got that slippery-slope slidey feeling?
If you would rather these signs did not grace our city at all, might be a good idea to let the Council know by showing up tonight at the meeting: 5:30 pm in City Hall.
There are actually four of these billboards around. They contribute to visual clutter, they are light pollutants, and they are distracting to drivers who are already talking on the cell phone, eating a McFood-item and trying to get the kids to behave. At this rate, we won’t be requiring people to actually pay attention to the road, cars or pedestrians!
From Lance Denno, 5th District Councilor:
The Lamar “trial” electronic billboards are located at:
I-690 Westbound nr Teall Av
James St, Westbound nr the City Line (Friendly’s Ice Cream)
E Brighton Ave, nr Ainsley Dr
West Genesee St at Erie Blvd West (Eastbound)
The proposed changes to the sign regulations are complex, but among other things they would prohibit most “animated” signs, and the Electronic Billboards (EBBs) would only be allowed to change the ad copy every 8 seconds. Even so, I am concerned that the reason that these bright, changing, electronic billboards are effective advertising tools is because they attract your attention.
The federal gov’t has studies that clearly indicate that any “eyes off the road forward” for two seconds more than doubles the probability of an accident. They are currently conducting a study specifically designed to see whether EBBs cause drivers attention to stray in the vicinity of these billboards. The study will be completed this year, and the results will be published next year. There is at least one study that finds a direct correlation between an electronic sign and accidents, and several industry reports urge state and local governments to await the findings of this new study.
Although the current moratorium has expired, I am urging that we not permit any new billboards until the test results are known. If a company invests millions of dollars in a big new EBB that the city has authorized, and then we find out that they double the chance of an auto accident, what will we do?
On Wednesday May 6 the Post Standard published an editorial also urging caution. You can read it at http://blog.syracuse.com/opinion/2009/05/digital_danger_syracuse_should.html
As I look into this I find more and more problems. Next Monday, as most of you know, there is a Planning Commission meeting at 6 pm. One item is the “monument” sign for Walgreens. The next item on the agenda is a zoning change request from Lamar. They want the City to change the zoning on a parcel at 117 Butternut (Veteran’s Fastener, on 81 North) to make legal a billboard that has been there illegally for many years.
The city has won several court decisions on this case, Lamar does not have a permit for the sign, the zoning does not allow for a billboard. But it is still there, Lamar still makes money off of it. You can see it currently displaying a liquor ad. What you can’t see are the American and POW/MIA flags that are now obscured by the billboard.
I am concerned that the city needs to create an effective enforcement mechanism before authorizing any more billboards. Many of the billboards in Syracuse do not have current valid permits.
The Onondaga County Planning Board has recommended that the Lamar zoning request be denied at 117 Butternut, and added to its statement this comment:
“The City is encouraged to uphold its sign ordinance.”
I hope to see a full house at the Monday Planning Commission (6pm) meeting and at the Tuesday Common Council meeting (5:30).
5th District Councilor