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Digital Billboards Coming to St. Pete

City Council voted 8-0 late Thursday night to approve an ordinance that would remove more than 80 static billboard faces in St. Pete and replace them with six digital billboards.

With a unanimous vote late Thursday night, the St. Petersburg City Council passed an ordinance that will lead to the removal of 83 static billboard faces across St. Petersburg by the end of the year. 

The approved 20-year agreement with Clear Channel allows for six digital billboards to be placed near the interstate once all 83 static billboards are removed. 

Digital Billboard Locations: 

  • I-275 and Gandy
  • I-275 and Gandy
  • I-275 and 13th Avenue N
  • I-275 and 22nd Street S *(Could be moved)* 
  • I-275 and 4th Avenue S
  • 175 and 12th Street S

All of the static billboards on 4th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. St and most in the Grand Central District will be removed. 

"We have gotten 45 or so billboards down in the last decade," said council member Karl Nurse of billboards being removed because of redevelopment. "If we continued having them come down (at that rate), we’d be done in 30 years. Or, we can get two-thirds of them down this year."

After nearly two hours of public forum comments, council addressed Tom O'Neill, Vice President, Real Estate and Public Affairs with Clear Channel. 

During questioning, council members were able to get multiple concessions from O'Neil and Clear Channel including:

  • Adding three additional static billboard faces (80 to 83) that would be removed
  • That city staff and Clear Channel would meet to discuss moving the proposed digital billboard near the Carter G. Woodson Museum and Jordan Park to somewhere else near I-275
  • Increasing the city's revenue share from 12.5 percent to 15 percent. 

Council member Wengay Newton said a majority of the billboards are located in south St. Pete and if the city could get rid of two-thirds of the static billboards it should. 

"I think this has been a good negotiation and I think getting rid of these 83 billboards is the right thing to do," said council member Charlie Gerdes. 

Like , nearly two-thirds of the public commenter’s spoke in favor of the ordinance, citing how the removal of 80-plus static billboards would beautify the city. 

Those opposed to the ordinance, most of which where heads of neighborhood associations, cited the wish to remove all billboards not just the 83. 

Jay Marshall, president of the Old Northeast Neighborhood Association, said digital billboards also pose a safety risk. 

"Looking at digital billboards as I’m traveling down the highway, it really does capture one’s attention," Marshall said. 

He said the city should get research to see if digital billboards pose by distracting drivers and causing accidents. "We need to focus on that before we move ahead," Marshall said.  

"We all would like to see these billboards come down," said CONA member Barbara Heck. "I’m concerned we are moving so fast on this."

 while it looked at the billboard ordinance in Clearwater. 

That Clearwater ordinance, according to Chief Assistant City Attorney Mark Winn, banned any new billboards being built, but did not allow the city to remove existing billboards. 

Mimi August 17, 2012 at 12:35 PM
Maybe drivers will be too busy watching the changing screens on the digital billboards to keep up with their texting...
Bill H. August 17, 2012 at 03:06 PM
The change rate of 10 seconds means that a driver doing normal speed will only see on quick change with no scrolling, video or animation. It's just not that big a deal.The Clearwater issue was a non-issue. They banned billboards and still have them as we do in St. Pete. Nothing new there. This was a good thing for St. Pete and polls by both CONA and St. Petepolls showed 2/3 favor the swap. It was the right thing to do. Thank you Mayor, staff, legal and City Council.
Bill H. August 17, 2012 at 03:06 PM
I meant they will see only "one" change".
KJC August 17, 2012 at 10:28 PM
The bill boards on 34 Street/˙highway 19 are really terrible and tasteless. It's not the main highway anymore and the signs are not merited any longer. I don't even notice the ones on 4th and MLK.
Shary Boe August 19, 2012 at 01:55 PM
Yes they are terrible and tasteless, just like the neighborhood is. Now tourists will have even more trouble finding the merchants in that area, causing more senseless accidents, which has one of the highest rate in the area. The digital billborads are distracting, like the one at Park and Tyrone, as it's changing causes one to keep looking to see the one again they just got a glimps of of, such as the wanted persons face. I see Clear channel is involved, so there must be some kind of financial benefit for someone. Focus needs to be on NO left turns out of the business onto 34th st, which cause many accidents, taking up the time of PD and causing traffic issues. Beautificatiion is important, but St. Pete is now called Tampa Bay lately (RNC, America's Got Talent) with large events. so maybe it should be called beautification of Tampa Bay, and let all the taxpayers from "Tampa Bay" pay for the beautification.
Tom Tito August 19, 2012 at 07:37 PM
With a $10 million deficit the city sold out for chump change. CONA found that other cities negotiated a million dollar payment up front or a half million per new billboard plus 20% of revenue.
Bill H. August 19, 2012 at 07:50 PM
Yes, they got more money up front , but it was a deal for much less billboard space(sq. Ft.) and for many less billboards in total. Everydeal is different and you have to look at the whole deal. This was a good deal for the city to get 83 down now.
Tom Tito August 19, 2012 at 08:02 PM
Maybe a good deal for the Kenwood neighborhood leaders and a really great deal for Clear Chanel but a really lousy deal for city taxpayers and the worst deal for neighborhoods left with dozens of billboards that are not part of the agreement. My southside neighborhood has a lot of nonconforming signs that were not coming down because failed city policies did not promote the improvement and redevelopment that would have required billboard removal. These signs were a symptom of a greater problem, not the cause of blight. We will still be a poverty neighborhood but will be a little more poor without the income from billboard rental.
Bill H. August 19, 2012 at 09:06 PM
Look, you can't have it both ways. First you want the billboards down. Then, you say the area will be blighted because of the lost income without them. Well, make up your mind. Do you want billboards or not??? How is it bad deal when we will be making 15% of groos on the 2 or $50,000 which ever is greater for 20 years? This was a good deal for inner city neighborhoods and for the city as a whole to be truely one step closer to being a seamless city. Sometimes in a city as oppesed to a human, you treat the symptoms to cure your problems. It's called the broken window theory. You can't fix it all at once, especially in this economy. So, let Clear Channel spend all the money to remove these pieces of neighborhood blight.
Maureen Stafford August 19, 2012 at 09:47 PM
Come on, This is NOT the "broken window theory" for remediation! That is really streatching it Bill. It's a deal that benefits certain neighborhoods and leaves an affliction on others, like the residents in Jordan Park who didn't rent or buy their houses with the boards there already!
Bill H. August 19, 2012 at 11:32 PM
Anything that cleans up the city is part of that theory. Jordan park was rebuilt in 2002. I'll bet that billboard was there first. That billboard has been lit up at night for all this time and was not coming down anytime soon. And even if it was, 82 others weren't that will now.

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