Think Philly Has Too Many Billboards? Too Bad

PennDOT has decided it has veto power over the the ads on our highways, thwarting councilman’s crusade to reduce blight.


PennDOT now has control over you, Gary Barbera sign.

Just a couple weeks ago, Philadelphia City Council passed a bill that has huge implications for billboard haters and lovers alike.

The legislation by Councilman Bobby Henon was expected to add more digital billboards throughout the city, while simultaneously cutting back on the number of billboards overall. It would force any company that wants to convert a traditional sign into a digital sign to tear down two regular signs elsewhere.

But Henon said on Thursday that he is recalling the legislation, which was years in the making, because PennDOT went and bigfooted Philadelphia.

PennDOT announced last week that, effective immediately, it now has veto power over proposed billboards along state highways in Philadelphia. That includes Market and Broad streets.

“It’s annoying to say the least,” says Henon. “My office has worked over three years trying to put together a foundation of sign controls on the outdoor advertising industry.”

Henon’s bill would have also put into effect new rules for digital billboards: It would place a limit on the brightness of the signs, and bar them from being erected within 500 feet of residential areas.

“We want to do it where it’s not intrusive to the communities,” says Henon, “and clean up some of the static signs that are cluttering up some of our neighborhoods.”

In the coming weeks, Henon says he will work with PennDOT to see if he can amend the bill in a way that is satisfactory to state officials.

“I wanted to recall it to see if there’s any technical changes that may meet what they’re looking for,” he says. “But we have no clue on what that means. This is unprecedented for the state to take back its authority for outdoor advertising.”

Mayor Michael Nutter returned the bill to City Council without his signature on Thursday. PennDOT did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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