The Leaf-Chronicle (USA Today Network) By Pranaav Jadhav February 3, 2017
TN-Three untouched locations in Clarksville will now have billboards after the City Council approved Lamar Advertising’s relocation proposal in Thursday’s regular session.
“I think we have opened Pandora’s box. The billboard companies are now going to move to profitable spots,” Ward 3 Councilman Ron Erb said. “I’m just scared that we have rewritten the code by our own actions.”
Thursday’s vote allows Lamar Advertising to relocate billboards from College Street, Wilma Rudolph Boulevard and Madison Street to new locations on Bellamy Lane, Lowes Drive and Tiny Town Road.
In 1996 the construction of new billboards was prohibited in the city and a billboard could be moved only if it was in the “best interest of the city.”
On Thursday, the council was divided on how to interpret the “best interest of the city” clause.
Ward 8 Councilman David Allen said he believes the best interest of the city is being business-friendly and scattering the billboards to different areas instead of concentrating them in one place.
“Reasonable minds can think otherwise,” Allen said.
Ward 1 Councilman Richard Garrett said the council doesn’t regulate any other businesses from relocating and this is no different.
“Why do we want to keep our hands in a particular business’s business?” Garrett said. “If they want to relocate and it is zoned appropriately, who are we to get in the way of that?”
Regional Planning Commission Director David Ripple said Thursday’s vote has set a new precedent.
“This has opened the door for three or more billboard companies to begin the process of taking poor locations and choosing better locations to move their billboards,” Ripple said.
The relocation of billboards takes them out of existing heavy commercial quarters where there are multiple signs in proximity to one another and moves them to pristine locations where there are no billboards, Ripple told The Leaf-Chronicle.
Another aspect of relocating the billboards is changing the technology.
The billboards at existing locations cannot be technologically upgraded, such as by adding changeable graphics and LED flashes. New locations will allow those upgrades.
City Mayor Kim McMillan said she has had several calls and complaints from residents asking to not allow billboards to be moved to newer locations.
McMillan interprets the best interest clause as a provision to move a billboard if the city wants to carry out a road widening project, for example.
In Thursday’s regular session, McMillan quoted a message from one of her political adversaries and former City Councilman Bill Summers, who changed the language of the ordinance in 2010.
“McMillan is 100 percent correct. The City Council voted to change the language in May 2010. I worked seven months with the city attorney, planning commission and city codes. I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that the promotion of business interest was not the reason for this change, nor was that its intent,” Summers said.
“Summers was integral in changing the language of the code,” McMillan said. “I believed like he did what the proper interpretation was so I am pleased.”
The site plan will now move to the Regional Planning Commission for approval.
The next steps are site plan approval, building permit and construction of new billboards.
Because this is a city resolution, it doesn’t require a second reading.
“No new off-premise advertising structures shall be erected within the city limits of the city of Clarksville. However, the City Council with the permission of the concerned permit holder may approve by resolution the relocation of any existing off-premise advertising structure when in the best interest of the city…”