JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A battle is brewing over billboards. Right now the city has less than a thousand strewn all over town. That's a huge decrease from what there used to be following controversial legislation that was passed decades ago. But Action News has learned that debate is back on the table.
It's the wave of the future. Electronic billboards allow billboard companies to make a lot more money -- displaying multiple ads, not just one. And those billboards may soon be popping up all over town.
It's something you probably don't notice until it's pointed out. The drive down JTB is picturesque. There isn't a single billboard there. But that could be changing.
"We're opening up a huge can of worms with this thing," said City Councilman Bill Bishop.
City council passed legislation back in 1987 putting a cap on the number of billboards allowed in city limits.
"We've removed something like well over a 1,000 billboards in the city since that time," he said.
But new legislation just introduced to City Council would change all that. Bishop told Action News it would allow one new billboard to go up, if the advertising company takes two existing billboards down. He said while that would ultimately knock down the number of overall billboards, the concern is it would allow companies to put billboards on new land, like along JTB.
"We're giving away something for nothing is what I'm seeing," Bishop said.
Action News reached out to ClearChannel Outdooor. In a statement, Jacksonville Division President Brent Bolick said, "For the past 20 years, billboards in Jacksonville have been regulated by a dozen different court-approved legal agreements. And during the course of the past 20 years, the industry has removed more than 900 billboards throughout the city. Those agreements are now beginning to expire, and the law is unclear as to how the industry will be regulated going forward. The proposed ordinance simply attempts to establish a uniform and fair set of rules that allow our industry to continue playing a vital role in our partnerships with law enforcement, the city of Jacksonville, local businesses and the nonprofit community."
Bishop said while digital billboards are very lucrative for the advertising companies, the city isn't reaping big rewards. The city gets property tax off the value of the billboard but he said they're really only valued at the cost of putting them up.
Bishop said along with cluttering the city, he thinks these billboards are a safety risk. He said more electronic billboards means more eyes off the road.
The billboard battle still has a long way to go. He expects this to be a controversial issue with lots of discussion.