Council to advance stripped-down version of digital billboard plan

Digital billboard advocates appear to have backed off an industry-driven proposal that had been set for an Indianapolis City-County Council committee vote next Monday.

Controversial language that would have allowed as many as 75 billboards to be converted to digital over 36 months was stripped from Proposal 250, under an amendment filed Wednesday by sponsor Mary Moriarty Adams.

Councilor Jeff Miller said the change was “great news,” and that he planned to vote for the amended version at the Monday night meeting of the Metropolitan and Economic Development Committee. Miller stood adamantly against the earlier version because of a loophole that could have allowed digital billboards near residences in certain situations.

Miller said the amendment came as a surprise because Clear Channel Communications and Lamar Outdoor Advertising were still promoting the earlier version of Proposal 250 as recently as this Monday. Meanwhile, more than 50 neighborhood associations had logged their opposition and were urging people to turn out for the meeting.

Under the amendment, the council would make a special resolution asking the Metropolitan Development Commission to initiate a proposal considering whether to amend the zoning code and allow digital billboards. The council also would ask the MDC to instruct the Department of Metropolitan Development to convene a stakeholder group to advise the process.
All zoning-ordinance changes must originate with the MDC, a volunteer board appointed by the mayor and council. The core of Proposal 250 was always to kick-start that process with the MDC, but earlier versions also suggested specific provisions that the MDC could adopt.

Those provisions took on even greater significance because the DMD's professional planners said they were too busy to advise the MDC on such a major change to the sign code.

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