Wednesday, December 3, 2014

How Many Existing Billboards are Illegal?

I posted this on the Indiana Forefront blog today.


If you listen to the representatives of Indy's three big billboard companies very closely, you will hear them talking about swapping and converting "legal non-conforming" billboards under the proposal written by themselves for themselves.  I refer to Prop 250, which the full Council sent back to committee on Monday night.

A legal non-conforming use is one that has been granted a certificate of legal non-conforming use (LNCU).  To obtain that certificate, documentation must be submitted showing the non-allowed use was in nearly continuous existence at a particular location since before 1969 or prior to the creation of the ordinance that created the non-conformity.

I have in my possession a list of billboard locations that Clear Channel offered, a couple of years ago, to swap out for digital billboards at new locations.  At the time, a Code Enforcement officer looked up locations to see if any permits had been obtained.  Of 42 locations with 52 sign faces, permits could not be found for 24 locations with 31 faces.

As of yesterday when I checked, none of these had certificates of LNCU noted in the City's online database.

Without a permit or an LNCU certificate, the billboard is illegal.

It would be an outrage to pass any change in the sign ordinance to allow swapping of illegal static faces for digital faces.

It would also be an outrage to pass any change in the sign ordinance that would allow the conversion of an illegal static face to a shiny new digital face.

Prop 250 does not disallow such exchanges.

The billboard companies should make public, before the January 26 Metropolitan & Economic Development committee meeting, a map of their current billboard locations as well as a table listing the address of each parcel and either the permit number or LNCU certificate number associated with the billboard at that location.

Any billboard that has neither a permit nor certificate is illegal and should be taken down at the expense of the billboard company with all due haste.


Unigov said...

Not to mention that most of the busstop bench billboards are situated illegally. They're required by code to be placed parallel to the street, yet most are angled so as to be more visible to motorists. So I agree, lets not add more clutter before fixing the current clutter. Theres a bazillion illegal signs on the eastside, and code enforcement is unresponsive. Note too that vinyl banner signs that are up more than 30 days are illegal. Trucks or trailers are often used as ersatz billboards - why does a payday loan place need a truck. Jordan's fish restaurants and Boost Mobil stores all have illegal lighting in their front windows. Its ridiculous.

Had Enough Indy? said...

I agree, Unigov.

Anonymous said...

People would LOVE to know which billboards in their neighborhood might be illegal. Publish the list, and assuming people speak up, watch some of these damn things disappear!

Anonymous said...

A north side neighborhood group made a valiant effort to have the bus stop advertising benches dealt with several years ago. The owner of the benches is not paying any money to the city for its advertisements or bench placement and is raking in a boatload of money each month for them. They are in essence categorized as illegal signs. When DCE began a sweep to remove them, there was a negative backlash from the media and the public. Bus users were left without a place to sit. Positive, income producing means of placing legitimate benches at the stops were ignored by city officials. The bench business owner is apparently a "friend" to many City County building insiders.

Had Enough Indy? said...

Anon 9:16 - great idea. Let me get on that this morning.

Had Enough Indy? said...

Anon 6:40 - I agree these benches serve a public need that is not being met by the City.

The City could confiscate that property, paint over the ad, and problem solved.

It might take an ordinance with steps included to notify the owner to remove it within so many days or the confiscation will happen without compensation in lieu of hefty fines. I'm not a lawyer, but it seems like it could work.

Had Enough Indy? said...

Okay Anon 9:16 --

Keep in mind this is only a very small fraction of Clear Channel's billboards in Marion County. We do not know how many more, if any, would seem to lack the proper permits or certificates. We also do not know the inventory for either Lamar or Outfront Media (formerly CBS Outdoor)and the condition of those.

Given all that - the list of proposed swap locations and their permit situation is on Google Drive :

You will likely have to copy and paste the link into your browser address field.

CorrND said...

Fall Creek Place became aware of an illegal Clear Channel-owned billboard at 2214 N Delaware in early 2013. It was a long process that took repeated communication with DCE and the city, but the billboard finally came down in early 2014.

I strongly encourage other neighborhoods to research billboards in their area to determine whether they are legal.

CorrND said...

I just looked at your list and was not aware of the illegal billboard at 2201 N College. I just submitted a MAC request to have DCE investigate the zoning violation.

Thank you for publishing that list.

Anonymous said...

Another concern I have is with the City's capacity (or lack thereof) to monitor/implement the current ban on new billboards, let alone a new ordinance. At the Nov. 17th council committee hearing, the DMD staffer said his staff didn't have time to review the ordinance and is counting on the council do vet it. The practical implication is that the City will have to rely on the foxes to watch the chickens, a very bad situation.

Had Enough Indy? said...

Anon 8:58 - I can't argue with you. We're letting the foxes design the hen house, too.