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Published: Friday, 3/30/2001

Foes say restriction is hurting local firms

Whether to extend the ban on new billboard construction until late summer was debated among Toledo city council members yesterday.

City planning officials told council they need at least four months more to conduct a thorough review of the city's billboard regulations before making recommendations about potential changes.

Councilwoman Tina Skeldon Wozniak, who heads council's economic development committee, said she believes it was important to allow the 120-day process, because council and city residents have asked for better regulations for outdoor signs.

Extending the moratorium and its effect on local business was the topic of yesterday's committee hearing.

On March 14, council voted to extend its September moratorium on billboard construction for 35 days while it mulled imposing a longer ban. Extending the ban would require another council vote.

The city plan commission is rewriting the city's zoning code, of which the sign code is a part.

Steve Herwat, director of the Toledo-Lucas County plan commissions, said the billboard portion of the sign code would be discussed at an April meeting, but it would take about four months to allow for a thorough review of the regulations.

“I would hate for us not to allow for the process that we have asked to have happen,” Mrs. Wozniak said.

Toledo residents Pam Hanley and Gene Ducat spoke out against billboards.

“Across this city, people are tired of the proliferation of this garbage,” Ms. Hanley said.

“It's a disgrace. It's a blight on the neighborhoods,” Mr. Ducat said.

Councilman Robert McCloskey said he opposed the ban, which he believes is hurting Toledo businesses.

Brock Rimmelin, of Toledo Outdoor Advertising, agreed. He said small business operators control only 2 percent of the city's billboards. The rest are owned by Lamar Outdoor Advertising, a Louisiana firm, he said.

The current ban, which is holding up permits for 49 new billboards, is only hurting the small, local operators, he said.

“I ask you not to continue this moratorium,” Mr. Rimmelin said.

“For some of our members, to continue the moratorium will accelerate a hardship on their businesses,” said Weston Gardner, legislative chairman of the Toledo Area Sign Contractors Association.

But Mrs. Wozniak said that with the city's current saturation of billboards, she felt it was unfair to argue that the city had not been sensitive to the billboard business.

Councilwoman Betty Shultz, who was not at the meeting, voiced her opposition to the ban in a letter that was read into the record.


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