Northeast Times

I-95 expansion could see billboard shakeup in Port Richmond, Bridesburg

While ad­vert­ising com­pan­ies are fight­ing to keep their hold as the high­way grows, some see an op­por­tun­ity to elim­in­ate the signs or bring them in­to com­pli­ance.

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Through the on­go­ing I-95 Re­vive pro­ject, more than 60 bill­boards along the stretch of high­way could be re­moved and re­planted in loc­a­tions about 350 feet away from the road.

Last week, the City Coun­cil Rules Com­mit­tee pushed for­ward a bill that would make the re­lo­ca­tion of these bill­boards a pos­sib­il­ity.

This bill has proved con­tro­ver­sial; the bill­boards would be placed in new loc­a­tions and some, like the So­ci­ety Cre­ated to Re­duce Urb­an Blight, or SCRUB, wor­ried the bill­boards could re­tain il­leg­al di­men­sions — too high or wide — or be re­placed with flashy, dis­tract­ing video signs.

An up­dated ver­sion of an earli­er bill that passed through the City Coun­cil’s Rules Com­mit­tee last week has pro­vi­sions that would en­sure that the ad­vert­ising signs wound not be­come video bill­boards, and re­lo­cated signs can­not ex­ceed the heights or di­men­sions of the ex­ist­ing bill­boards.

Yet, throughout many areas, stretch­ing from Al­legheny Av­en­ue to Rhawn Street, in Coun­cil­wo­man Joan Kra­jew­ski’s 6th dis­trict, the bill would have no ef­fect. 

Ac­cord­ing to Chris Creel­man, Kra­jew­ski’s chief of staff, many of the bill­boards through Kra­jew­ski’s dis­trict cur­rently are il­leg­al. They might have been erec­ted too high to too large for cur­rent reg­u­la­tions, or might have been erec­ted on prop­erty on which they shouldn’t have been placed.

The I-95 ex­pan­sion pro­ject al­low the dis­trict to re­move many of the of­fend­ing bill­boards, and the coun­cil­wo­man’s of­fice seems to not want to re­peat mis­takes of the past and al­low il­leg­al bill­boards to simply move else­where.

“We would be giv­ing own­ers of il­leg­al bill­boards carte blanche,” said Creel­man. “The whole thing with the bill­boards, we just wer­en’t com­fort­able do­ing.”

Dur­ing last week’s hear­ing, rep­res­ent­at­ives from the cor­por­a­tions that own the bill­boards on I-95, such as CBS Out­door Ad­vert­ising and Steen Out­door Ad­vert­ising, test­i­fied that the bill­boards of­fer “free in­form­a­tion” and could be con­sidered a pub­lic ser­vice, while they also of­fer ad­vert­ising and oth­er mes­sages.

“The most vi­brant cit­ies in the world are cit­ies that have out­door ad­vert­ising,” said Terry L. Steen, pres­id­ent of Steen Out­door Ad­vert­ising.

Steen ex­pressed con­cern that without be­ing al­lowed to re­lo­cate their bill­boards, once I-95 is widened, the com­pan­ies would lose in­come and hun­dreds of em­ploy­ees could lose their jobs.

Also, he said, by provid­ing in­form­a­tion­al ad­vert­ising or pub­lic ser­vice an­nounce­ments on bill­boards, his com­pany alone provided more than $1.4 mil­lion in ad­vert­ising for char­ity last year.

“I’m be­ing taken to the clean­ers,” said Steen, say­ing he would lose in­come if the bill wasn’t pushed for­ward for ap­prov­al.

Tom Potts, who heads the Neigh­bor­hood Ad­vis­ory Com­mit­tee for the New Kens­ing­ton Com­munity De­vel­op­ment Corp. was on hand dur­ing the meet­ing, and test­i­fied that, cur­rently, not all bill­boards along I-95 were in com­pli­ance with city­wide reg­u­la­tions.

When the bill­boards are moved, Potts said he’d “like to see them all fall un­der com­pli­ance.”

Stephanie Kindt, a staff at­tor­ney for SCRUB, agreed with Potts.

“Put them back up un­der com­pli­ance or not at all,” she said.

Rep­res­ent­at­ives for the ad­vert­ising com­pan­ies seemed cer­tain that they would be able to re­lo­cate and would make the new bill­boards in com­pli­ance with cur­rent reg­u­la­tions.

Yet, Kra­jewk­ski’s dis­trict will re­main ex­empt from any ele­ments of the new bill.

In her dis­trict, when the bill­boards are moved through the on­go­ing con­struc­tion pro­ject, the bill­boards own­ers would need to re­apply for per­mits as if they were build­ing new signs and not simply re­lo­cat­ing them.

Creel­man said that, from Rhawn Street south to Al­legheny Av­en­ue, I-95 bill­boards couldn’t simply be re­lo­cated.

“Where does it end?” he asked.

At last week’s meet­ing Bill 100678 was ap­proved by the Rules Com­mit­tee. It will re­ceive a fi­nal vote at the next full meet­ing of City Coun­cil, sched­uled for Thursday, June 16.

Re­port­er Hay­den Mit­man can be reached at 215-354-3124 or hmit­man@bsmphilly.com 

End­Frag­ment

You can reach at hmitman@bsmphilly.com.

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