Santa Clarita City Council members are scheduled to discuss a controversial Metro billboard deal Tuesday at City Hall.
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The billboard proposal from Metro contains several working parts Santa Clarita City Council members are being asked to approve Tuesday, based on the city’s agenda.
The City Council meeting 6 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall on Valencia Boulevard is expected to be preceded at 5 pm. by a protest being organized on Facebook by those opposed to the billboard deal from Metro.
Metro, Edwards Outdoor Advertising, Open Space zoning laws
Santa Clarita city officials have expressed interest in removing the “blight” of billboards for more than two decades, enacting a moratorium on any future billboards back in the early 1990s.
The newest proposal intends to move the blight closer to a Santa Clarita Valley freeway and highway in exchange for the city gaining revenue from new electronic billboards and the taking down of billboards within the city.
Related articles: Santa Clarita City Council OKs Metro Billboards For Second Reading
The current proposal from Metro would erect three two-sided, electronic 14’ tall by 48’ wide billboards elevated on 65’ tall poles — two adjacent to Highway 14 and a third adjacent to Interstate 5 — in exchange for Metro removing 62 billboards in the right of way throughout the city of Santa Clarita.
The deal before the council stems from negotiations between Santa Clarita and Metro that began two to three years ago, according to Tom Cole, director of community development for the city.
The deal has several facets: a) it calls for Santa Clarita City Council members to OK a buyout of Edwards Outdoor Advertising, a Newhall-based business and owner of 47 billboards within city limits; b) creating an exemption in the the city’s billboard ordinance expressly prohibiting the construction of billboards, which would allow the construction in three special zones; and c) a rezoning Open Space Preservation District land at one of the three new billboard sites to create a “Billboard Relocation Overlay Zone.”
Edwards Outdoor Advertising
The Edwards deal calls for the city to spend $1.3 million to buy out Julie Edwards-Sanchez’s business, Edwards Outdoor Advertising.
“Our family believes that given the complexities of what just occurred with the MTA deal, and the continued threat that MTA may cancel our leases on a whim and/or as possible retaliation for our vocal opposition to the deal, that this is the best possible outcome for our family,” in a statement from Edwards-Sanchez, president of Edwards Outdoor Advertising.
The deal takes down more than just the billboards within the Metro’s right of way, said Councilman Bob Kellar.
“We’ve talked about trying to get rid of billboards, or some number of them, for years,” Kellar said, explaining the purpose behind the Metro deal. “To just simply buy (Edwards Outdoor) out is too expensive.”
Ideally, two billboards would be better than three, he said, however, the revenue figures didn’t justify the deal for Metro, he said.
Councilman TimBen Boydston noted the ardent opposition, as well as a permit denial from CalTrans, as cause for city officials to slow down and reconsider the deal, or put it to a citywide vote.
The California Department of Transportation denied a permit application for the proposed location of a Metro billboard site listed by All Vision, noting the citation of improper zoning conditions for the “Norland Road” location, which is near Highway 14.
Related article:UPDATE: Santa Clarita Metro Billboard Proposal Seeking Permits
Billboards and zoning
The focus of the discussion on the billboard proposal has been in the wrong place, according to Kellar.
“I think there’s been way too much concern with the placing of the billboards on the freeway, and overlooking that we’re getting rid of 118 billboards,” Kellar said. “I honestly feel that the vast majority of this community would be very, very supportive of having these billboards removed.”
The deal has been roundly criticized by residents at several Santa Clarita City Council meetings, with several objecting to a zoning change, complaints over the new sites for the billboards and because it calls for the moving of blight from one area to another.
However, there’s precedent for the zoning change, Kellar said, and the move is not restricted by any law.
“This is not the first time we have changed a zoning to accomplish a development,” Kellar said. “I absolutely see nothing wrong with the change.”
If the land were purchased with Open Space Preservation District dollars, then the land would have to stay in open space in perpetuity, he said. However, since the land was purchased before the district was created, then added to it, the move is legal.
The move to re-zone the Norland Road site has been called “spot zoning,” by critics.
Such a move is discouraged by CalTrans, according to CalTrans spokeswoman Judy Gish.
“(Federal Highway Administration officials) directions to us are to discourage “spot zoning,” so we discourage it, and we do that by the permitting process,” Gish said.
“(CalTrans officials) would not issue a permit for something within something determined to be spot zoning,” Gish said, “I’m specifically talking about billboards.”
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Source: Santa Clarita News