A coalition of City Council members and neighborhood groups launched an assault on billboards yesterday, proposing that the city ban all billboards advertising alcohol and tobacco and charge billboard companies an annual fee.
Several council members plan to introduce a package of anti-billboard bills at Monday's council meeting. Yesterday, council members and representatives from the Coalition for Beautiful Neighborhoods, a consortium of community groups and churches, unveiled the legislation at city hall.
"This is important legislation to clean up our community," said Barbara C. Ferguson, co-chair, noting the influence tobacco and alcohol advertising are believed to have on youngsters.
One bill would ban the advertising starting July 1, 1993.
Another would require all billboard owners to buy an annual license and pay a fee of $4 per square foot. Currently, billboard owners pay a one-time fee to the city.
Another bill would allow new billboards only in heavy-manufacturing areas, while prohibiting them in business communities adjacent to residential neighborhoods. Billboards are already banned in residential areas.
The bill would limit the number of billboards in the city because the zoning board would be able to approve new billboards only to replace existing ones.
In addition, the council plans to introduce a resolution asking the state's Department of Assessment and Taxation to change the way billboards are taxed. Currently, taxes are based on the value the billboard, but the resolution calls for a tax based on the amount of revenue a billboard company brings in from advertising.
In January, the Coalition of Beautiful Neighborhoods won a fight against smaller, so-called "junior billboards" when a city Circuit Court judge ordered the illegal advertisements removed from city buildings. Boisclair, the company that owns the junior billboards, has dropped an appeal of the ruling.