Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Monday, April 15, 2002


Page 8


City Council  Approves $477 Annual Charge for Billboard Owners




The City Council on Friday directed the city attorney to draft legislation tracking billboards in the city and imposing a $477 annual fee for each sign.

Billboard industry representatives have called the fee too high. But Councilman Jack Weiss called the complaints ridiculous.

“The sign companies earn thousands if not millions of dollars each year per sign by selling advertising,” Weiss said in a statement. “Their hardship arguments are laughable.”

Weiss spokeswoman Lisa Hansen said the fee is based on the actual cost of the program, which includes hiring inspectors and clerical staff to create and maintain the database.

Once the fee is paid the signs would display certificates indicating the permit owner and legality. Hansen called this a “key element” of the ordinance and said signs without certificates would be a tip off that the sign may not be legal.

“Citizens would be empowered to report them...for the first time [they can] take action against illegal signs,” Hansen said.

The motion instructs the city attorney to prepare the ordinance in consultation with the Department of Building and Safety and billboard industry delegates.

It also requires the Department of Building and Safety to report in a year on the progress of the program.

Sign owners would bear the burden of proving that their sign is legal, Weiss’ office said.

A spokesman for Councilman Hal Bernson, vice-chair of the council’s Planning and Land Use Management committee, said that his office had taken its own inventory of billboards in their district. Non-conforming signs were reported to the appropriate authorities.

Hansen said that such inspections do not replace a citywide inspection and database, while they may prove helpful.

Billboard companies in those districts would not be exempt from fees.

The move sets the groundwork for future billboard reduction programs, but does not affect the citywide moratorium, Hansen said.


Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company