TACOMA – Tacoma’s City Council voted Tuesday night to ban digital billboards in the city.
The move essentially voids a settlement agreement with Clear Channel Outdoor, which had sued the city 14 years ago over an ordinance to reduce billboards in the city. The company had agreed to take down dozens of traditional billboards, in exchange for the right to put up to 10 electronic billboards across the city.
The Council agreed to the terms of the deal earlier this year. But it was immediately met with criticism from people who were concerned about flashing lights outside their homes, including Neil Beckman.
“I don’t like the looks of it right now,” said Beckman, who lives across the street from an existing billboard which looks down on his home. Clear Channel intended to turn it into an electronic sign.
“They are distracting. I’d probably move,” he said.
“I think it’s a matter of trying to do, with the resolution, what is best for the city,” said Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland, a one-time digital billboard supporter. She says the original settlement would have reduced billboards by 85 percent, and acknowledges the resolution may prompt action from Clear Channel.
“If there is a legal battle, we will have to deal with it as it comes,” said Strickland.
Clear Channel Outdoor’s Seattle Division President Olivia Lippens did not return a phone call for comment Tuesday night. Another Clear Channel representative warned the council at the meeting that he believed their action opened the city to legal and financial risk, and would ultimately cost the city millions of dollars.