Mayor John Hamilton’s administration presented a proposal to the City of Bloomington’s Plan Commission last week to remove all existing billboards in Bloomington over the next five to seven years.
The city’s zoning code is the primary source of land use regulations for the City of Bloomington. It regulates what can be done on property. It includes a section on signage, that prohibits large billboards and was enacted after the 1998 zoning code revision. While nearly four dozen large billboards that had been built prior to this regulation’s enaction were allowed to stay, all billboards constructed after have to follow new regulations.
Hamilton said by 2031 all billboards, including those built before 1998, will need to conform with the zoning code. This means these billboards will likely be removed.
“We felt it was time to gradually phase those out because they can distort property values and are not consistent with our zoning code,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton said he and his administration are asking the plan commission and the city council to approve the proposal. If the plan commission votes in favor of the proposal at its Oct. 9 meeting, the amendment will move to the Bloomington City Council for a vote. If either the plan commission or the city council turns down the proposal, depending on the legislation, it cannot come back within a year or unless major changes are made to the proposal.
“We decided to phase it out over a number of years to give the owners of the billboards a chance to conclude any contracts and plan for that change,” Hamilton said. “Some of these have been around for 35 years so we didn’t want to spring anything on them.”
Lamar Advertising owns most of the billboards in the city and the company is suing Bloomington’s Board of Zoning Appeals over an electronic billboard next to the State Road 45/46 bypass.
The City of Bloomington cited Lamar Advertising last year because a new electronic screen on the billboard did not comply with the city’s municipal code. If Lamar Advertising wins the case, the electronic billboard might still have to come down if the billboard proposal is approved.
Lamar Advertising did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Mike Rouker, Bloomington city attorney, said in an email the City does not comment on pending litigations, so the Bloomington Legal Department is not able to offer any comment on the enforcement action against Lamar Advertising related to the digital billboard.
Rouker said in the email the litigation is independent from the legislative proposal the Plan Commission will consider on Oct. 9.
Isabel Piedmont-Smith, city council vice president and District 5 representative, said the council conducts first and second readings of the legislation before members vote on it. During the second reading, the person who brought the legislation presents the plan to the council. If any of the council members have unanswered questions after the second reading, they can send it to a third reading.
“When looking at proposals I always like to think about who is going to be affected and weigh out the impacts,” Piedmont-Smith said. “Also looking at if those people are in a population that is traditionally underserved by local government.”