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Monroe Co. BZA Votes Down Proposal For Digital Billboard

The Bloomington Board Of Zoning Appeals sitting in the Nat U Hill room of the Monroe County Courthouse

The board voted against approving the digital billboard variance request 4-0. (Alex Eady, WTIU/WFIU News)

Monroe County Board of Zoning Appeals voted unanimously Wednesday night to deny a proposal to bring a 50-foot-high electronic billboard to Bloomington's west side.

Indianapolis-based billboard company, GEFT Outdoor presented their proposal to the board Wednesday, requesting special approval for a 670 square foot digital sign. The double-sided billboard would be located at 2500 W. Industrial Park Drive near Interstate 69 and W. Vernal Pike.

The billboard would be considered an off-premise sign, which advertises products and services at a site available at a different location. City jurisdiction has banned off premises signage for over 20 years.

Company attorney, Richard Blaiklock says the need for a special variance is unnecessary and is a violation of first amendment rights.

"The ordinance lacks any objective standards by which we could understand how the BZA and how the staff are evaluating the criteria for a variance,” says Blaiklock.

He says the billboard would have no negative environmental impact and also provides an economic development benefit for businesses.

Bloomington resident Richard Martin says the ordinance sets necessary restrictions for off-premises signs, which create distractions and detract from highway aesthetic.

"We have a long history of keeping the visual appearance of our community along its highways as natural as we can. And I find it somewhat offensive that someone would come and tell us that they don’t respect that effort that effort that this community has gone through for so long," says Martin.

GEFT Outdoor has challenged other cities for their restrictions on digital signage. The company has filed lawsuits against the cities of Indianapolis, Westfield and Anderson on claims that their municipal ordinances blocking the digital signage were a violation of free speech rights.

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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