Finally, Illegal Billboard to be Removed by September 1st

illegal_billboardIt’s been four years since Lamar Advertising and the Pittsburgh Parking Authority reached an agreement on the construction of a giant 1,900-square-foot LED billboard and ticker on the Grant Street Transportation Center. It’s been three years since Pittsburgh City Councilors Bill Peduto, Patrick Dowd, Ricky Burgess, Bruce Kraus, and Doug Shields raised objections to the billboard as the City granted a permit without requiring Lamar or the Parking Authority to obtain needed variances, public hearings, etc. and the City revoked the permit for the partially erected billboard. In that three years, there’s been numerous lawsuits, allegations of corruptiondismissals, court decisions against Lamar, a moratorium and editorials for its removal, yet, the sign still stands.

In March, Scenic Pittsburgh, a civic group dedicated to banning billboard blight, went to court to demand that the illegal sign finally be removed. Yesterday, Scenic Pittsburgh announced that an agreement has been reached and that Lamar will pay to have the sign removed and that removal will occur by September 1st. Here’s a letter by Mike Dawida, Executive Director of Scenic Pittsburgh and former Allegheny County Commissioner, announcing their victory:

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Dear Friends of Scenic Pittsburgh,

  I am pleased to announce Scenic Pittsburgh has negotiated an agreement the Parking Authority, the City and sign owner to remove a billboard erected in violation of the City of Pittsburgh Zoning Code. We expect the 19′ x 58′ electronic billboard that hangs on the Grant Street Transportation Center in Downtown Pittsburgh will be removed on or before September 1, 2011. We are pleased about the agreement as this partially completed sign hanging at a prominent downtown intersection has remained an eyesore for more than three years.

  Although this long-running legal fight has ended, the controversy continues. It is unfortunate that this billboard should have been handled as a simple zoning variance issue. Instead, an unconventional permitting process eventually led to the dismissal of two zoning commissioners and the URA Director. The removal of this sign validates the position taken by Councilmen Shields, Peduto, Burgess, Kraus and Dowd, who were sued for their opposition to this billboard. These councilmen should be commended for defending the people’s right to due process in the well established zoning process.

 The story of this billboard is a lesson as to why it is important to carefully consider the consequences of allowing electronic billboards in our neighborhoods. Once you allow billboards to be built, they are nearly impossible to get rid off. Scenic Pittsburgh is moving forward to remove other illegal billboards, but because of state law, most billboards in Pittsburgh enjoy grandfathered legal status. Hundreds of non-conforming billboards would be illegal otherwise.

  Rand McNally, Forbes, and The Economist recognize Pittsburgh as among the best. It is time to take a close look at what makes Pittsburgh exceptional. For many years our riverbanks and skylines where dominated by commercial interests but the “smoky city” eventually reclaimed its riverbanks and skylines. Today we bring our
visitors to the overlooks to gaze down on our proud city. This happened because of an advanced understanding of the value of these resources and the vision of a better Pittsburgh.

  In the vision of a better Pittsburgh, where do billboards fit? How much of our reclaimed city should we surrender to corporate interests? What do electronic billboards contribute to riverbanks and skylines of our scenic city? Do you want an electronic billboard in your neighborhood? These questions are not rhetorical, and will soon be up for debate in City Council where their decision will affect Pittsburgh’s image for another century.

Mike Dawida
Executive Director

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Congratulations to the citizens of the City of Pittsburgh who will finally soon be able to enjoy their Downtown without this eyesore.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, May 5th, 2011 at 5:42 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Response to “Finally, Illegal Billboard to be Removed by September 1st”

  1. Citizen Says:

    May 5th, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    This is absolutely ridiculous. This is what we’re making a stand about? Why not lease the billboard space to pay for things the city needs? We can’t get streets plowed, lights put up at dangerous intersections, or repair bridges, but we’re going to stifle a community business? Go through the process correctly, issue the permits, and let life go on.

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