Neighborhoods rally against digital billboards

A coalition of neighborhood groups is rallying against a proposal to lift Marion County’s ban on digital billboards.

Proposal No. 250, which passed the Metropolitan and Economic Development Committee of the Indianapolis City-County Council in November on a bipartisan vote, will be heard for a second time Monday night, and leaders from six neighborhood organizations are prepared to testify against it.

“The proposed changes to the ordinance are so heavily weighted to the benefit of the billboard companies, and are so flawed, that it is not salvageable,” Decatur Township Civic Council member Pat Andrews said in a written statement issued Friday morning.

Twenty-three neighborhood and civic organizations, as well as the Town of Cumberland, were listed in opposition to the proposal.

Proposal No. 250 asks the Metropolitan Development Commission, an appointed board, to initiate changes to the sign ordinance and suggests language that the commission could adopt or alter. That language would permit as many as 75 digital billboards to go up in a span of 36 months.

Typically, changes to zoning ordinances originate with the Metropolitan Development Commission, but the staff of the Department of Metropolitan Development has said it doesn’t have time to deal with a digital billboard ordinance at this time.

Republican City Council member Jeff Miller said it’s his understanding that the Department of Metropolitan Development plans to take up the entire sign ordinance after seeing passage of a major zoning-code overhaul, dubbed “Indy ReZone.”

“If that is the case, then that is where any change to the billboard regulations should properly be taken up,” Miller said in the prepared statement.

Miller and Democrat Vop Osili were the two members of the council committee who voted against the digital billboard proposal, which was drafted by major industry players, in November.

Because of an onslaught of negative feedback from neighborhood groups, the council voted to send the proposal back to committeee.

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