Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Nonprofit: Don't Allow Electronic Billboards in Pgh.

A national group against billboards has come to Pittsburgh to advocate a ban on electronic billboards in the city, about a week before City Planning Commission takes up a measure to regulate the signs.

The nonprofit Scenic America argues electronic billboards are intrusive to landscapes and dangerous to drivers, as well as harmful to property values. Executive Director Mary Tracy says each digital sign also uses the same amount of electricity as about 30 houses.

Tracy says the billboards simply aren’t worth the problems they bring up.

“ You have traffic safety issues, you have environmental issues, you have aesthetic issues, and you have to kind of look at it and say, ‘What are we really gaining here?’” says Tracy.

Tracy says the advertising industry often argues this is a free speech matter, but she says it’s not. She argues that because the signs can be dangerous to drivers and lower property values, they should be open to regulation. Tracy says four states and more than 1,000 municipalities have already forbidden the billboards.

The Scenic America leader says the proliferation of electronic billboards is an example of political lobbying trumping the public interest.

The Planning Commission will look at an ordinance regulating the size, brightness and placement of the billboards next Tuesday.

Scenic America is holding a public meeting on the issue at two o'clock today, at the Conservation Consultants, Inc. Center on 14th Street in the South Side.

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