Downtown review board denies billboard application
Opponents of outdoor advertising won a skirmish in the battle over billboards Thursday when the Downtown Development Review Board denied an application to install a digital display along Interstate 95 south of Downtown.
The application also raised questions about the review board's responsibilities and jurisdiction.
The proposed billboard would replace one taken down by the Florida Department of Transportation as part of the Overland Bridge project to widen the interstate. The new structure would be located two-tenths of a mile east of Hendricks Avenue, about 150 feet from the site of the condemned billboard, said Steve Diebenow, who represented the applicant, the Ida Boyd Trust.
The staff review in the application advised the board its capacity was to review the streetscape design standards included in the Downtown Overlay. Those criteria include sidewalk design, paving, landscaping and street furniture.
Review board member Chris Flagg said since the billboard has been removed, it should not be replaced and the board has an obligation to preserve and enhance the appearance of Downtown. "This is a big old pile of ugliness," he said.
Assistant General Counsel Jason Teal advised the board it is a "subset of the City of Jacksonville" and therefore bound by a measure approved by voters in 1997 to limit the number of billboards allowed which led to a settlement between the city, Capsigns Inc. and CBS Outdoor.
Teal said the settlement was reached before the Downtown Master Plan, overlay or special zoning code for Downtown was adopted.
"That created obligations over the lifetime of the settlement agreement. The board's hands are tied. A billboard can be rebuilt. While you may not like it, the city entered into a legal obligation," Teal said.
"Your scope of review has been restricted," he said.
Board Chairman Tim Miller said the review was "an incredibly frustrating" process.
"Our hands are tied about reviewing this. It's just not right. This board is about aesthetics," he said. "A billboard falls into the category of poor aesthetics."
Board member Roland Udenze made a motion to defer the application because the applicant failed to provide color and material samples, a landscape design and site plan, which are required for final review.
"If this was a building, we'd say we don't have enough information," said Udenze.
Flagg asked Udenze if the applicant coming back to the board would change his vote. "Shame on us if it's going to change our mind," Flagg said.
The motion to defer the application was defeated 4-2.
A motion then was made by Flagg to deny the application. The motion to deny was approved 5-1, with board member Montasser Selim casting the dissenting vote.
Teal said the applicant may appeal the board's decision to the Downtown Investment Authority and then, if necessary, to the City Council.