Digital Signage and Public Policy -

Digital Signage and Public Policy

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David Keene– We don’t usually use these pages for political call to action, but a “politics” of sorts surrounds some digital signage rollouts. Privacy issues, safety issues, or simply the kind of aesthetic issues surrounding signage in general, can come up in the digital signage arena.

An interesting article appeared in a Tampa Bay, Florida newspaper on Tuesday...

... reporting on public hearings in Pinellas County, FL. (Tampa Bay). Particularly interesting is a reference that “….the current Pinellas County sign code is older than the level of technology in use today and does not address many factors associated with digital systems..”

Indeed. As digital signage systems increasingly are rolled out for transportation, retail, education, and other applications, these kind of issues will come up. Hopefully industry-educated and technology saavy people will participate in the debate. Safety issues should certainly preclude the installation of any systems that would compromise the safety of commuters. But it’s easy for government regulation to be behind, in terms of technology updates.

This is the article:

Article published on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2010

CLEARWATER – Pinellas County Commissioners will take public comment during two hearings scheduled Oct. 26 and Nov. 16 on proposed amendments to land development code regulating digital signage.

Advertising for the public hearings was approved on Sept. 21.

Pinellas County enacted a one-year moratorium on digital signs on Nov. 17, 2009, putting a hold on new applications.

According to staff notes, the current Pinellas County sign code is older than the level of technology in use today and does not address many factors associated with digital systems. Current code allows changeable messages on signs to be displayed as long as the interval between messages is at least one minute.

Clear Channel, one of the major billboard owners, requested that the county change its code to allow for message changes every six seconds. Pinellas County Commissioners delayed action on the request preferring to wait until release of a Federal Highway Administration study on safety impacts of digital signs on motorists.

Since the moratorium was put into place, county staff met with three stakeholder groups to discuss issues surrounding digital signs, the notes said. On July 13, the commissioners discussed recommendations from the county administrator.

Outside legal counsel was then retained to review the issues, including negotiations of billboard settlement agreements currently influencing non-conforming off-premises signs located on non-federal-aided primary roadways. The plan is to have some of the non-conforming signs removed in exchange for allowing new digital signage.

A new ordinance was drafted that contains provisions for digital or electronic signage. The ordinance does not yet include a message interval time greater than one minute. Staff is waiting on outside legal counsel to make recommendations on an incentive ratio and procedure for a “relaxed time interval” on digital, off-premise signs in exchange for removal of non-conforming signs.

The draft ordinance contains new definitions relating to digital signs and identifies federal-aid primary roadways. It includes requirements that prohibit off-premise electronic changeable message displays from being within a 2,500-foot radius of another like sign.

Electronic signs also would not be allowed with a 250-foot radius of an intersection or interchange, nor would they be allowed within 400 feet of residentially owned property.


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