Aldermen will consider changes to the city ordinance regulating billboards on Tuesday, but at least one local billboard company manager says the proposal goes too far.
The ordinance, proposed by Ward 3 Alderman David Little, would cap the number of billboards allowed in the city limits at 13 and require all existing and new billboards to meet certain design standards by 2021.
Those specific design standards require brick billboard bases and hunter green paint on any exposed metal.
The new ordinance would uphold two key standards of the existing regulation — billboards must be placed no closer than a half-mile apart and can only be placed in C-2 (moderate to heavy commercial) or M-1 (manufacturing) zones.
However, the new ordinance would not allow them within 288 feet of any residential area.
“We do want to keep the billboards in Starkville, we just want to clean them up and make them more appealing,” Little said.
The board, which meets at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, can approve the new ordinance after a second public hearing. Aldermen held the first public hearing on the matter in June. In January, The Board of Alderman instituted a moratorium, banning the building of any new billboards for six months while a new course of action was deliberated.
Lamar Advertising General Manager and Vice President Marty Elrod said the changes would cost the company more to place billboards in Starkville. The company appealed to the city to soften the ordinance language during a June 6 hearing.
There are currently 14 billboards permits within Starkville city limits.
Lamar Advertising currently has 11 billboards and is expected to begin construction on their twelfth within 10 days.
City planner Daniel Havelin said he has no record of the owners of the two non-Lamar billboards.
The ordinance draws a distinction between the terms “off-site” and “billboard”. The term off-site was removed from the definition of billboards.
Businesses behind other businesses near highways can pay the business with better coverage that is closer to the highway to put up a sign, and it would be considered off-site signage. But signs are not billboards, they must be on the owner’s property.
Static billboards can be built with the new upgrades in northern Starkville, off Highways 12, 25, and the 82 Bypass.
Owners who want to build a digital billboard will have to purchase three nonconforming billboard leases from other owners first.
Nonconforming static billboards can be replaced with digital billboards, but the three nonconforming billboards will have to be removed.
The resulting lower inventory, coupled with the costs associated with meeting the new design standards, is expected to increase advertising costs for businesses said Havelin.
The city hopes to go more digital over time, “Until there is no more nonconforming static billboards,” he added.
Carreon was previously a reporter for The Dispatch.
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