The Modesto Bee By Kevin Valine March 6, 2017
Motorists along Highway 99 in Modesto could have something new to look at – digital billboards.
The City Council on Tuesday will consider allowing these billboards along the highway. A city report says Vintage Faire Mall asked the city last year about allowing a digital billboard at the mall. That spurred the city to look into regulations.
Modesto has banned billboards for decades, and the few dozen in the city predate the ban. The report says in order to get a digital billboard, a company would need to remove four traditional billboards to reduce visual clutter. But a company also could enter into an operating agreement with the city for a digital billboard without removing other billboards.
The agreement would have to provide other benefits to the city, such as providing it with revenue that could be used to remove graffiti. The report says some communities allow digital billboards in exchange for payments from the billboard companies.
Modesto’s proposal has drawn opposition from Rogers Media Co., a Davis-based billboard company, according to the city report. Stockton attorney Steven Herum wrote a Jan. 26 letter to the city on behalf of Rogers Media saying it prevents smaller companies that don’t have four billboards from participating. Rogers Media’s website shows it has two billboards in Modesto.
“(A) census of billboard ownership reveals that only one company owning billboards in Modesto could take advantage of this proposal,” Herum wrote. “Thus the proposal amounts to special legislation favoring large national entities and supplying these companies with a greater market share through government regulation rather than free market competition.”
However, the city report states companies that cannot remove four traditional billboards in exchange for a digital billboard can reach other accommodations with Modesto through the operating agreement. Herum could not be reached for comment and Rogers Media did not return a phone call Monday afternoon.
The report states that the digital billboards would have to be at least 2,500 feet from one another, and the messages could not have motion. The messages could rotate no more often than every eight seconds.
The council will meet at 5:30 p.m. in the basement chambers of Tenth Street Place, 1010 10th St.