CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- Digital billboards tower big and bright above streets in Jacksonville, and they could soon move over streets in Clay County.
In 2004, Clay County was one of the first in the nation to ban all new billboards, with the goal of someday phasing them out.
"State across the nation looked to us," said Marion Hilliard, a highway beautification advocate, who led the fight. "They looked up to us as one of the first areas to get it passed.
But a newly proposed ordinance could soon make new digital billboards a reality along parts of Highways 301, 21, and 17, as well as Kingsley Avenue, Wells Road, and Blanding Boulevard. County commissioners are set to vote on the ordinance on Tuesday. The proposal restricts the size of digital billboards, and requires up to three existing signs be removed for every new one that's built.
District Three Commissioner Diane Hutchings told Action News she supports the change, but only for parts of Wells and Blanding, which are areas that she says need a facelift.
"I'm not crazy about billboards either, but I'm willing to put up a few that are going to look really nice, and have the new technology, and be in a different area just to make our corridor on Blanding look better."
It's an opportunity, Hutchings says, to reduce the total number of billboards in Clay County by up to 25 percent in the next 10 years.
"Are we ever going to get Blanding to look like Fleming Island? Well, no. It developed as a diffferent area, it's already developed, so we can improve it by allowing a change in the ordinance, but it doesn't make it that that would be appropriate for the entire county."
But Hilliard worries it won't stop there.
"If you say yes to one entity, how are you going to then say no to someone that makes an application?"
And she doesn't think the companies supporting the change have the good of the community in mind.
"I don't think they're doing this as, 'I'm trying to save your community' effort. I mean there is monetary gain behind this whole thing."
The final opportunity for public comment will take place at Tuesday's Commission meeting. The commission plans to take a vote immediately following that discussion.