The city of Tacoma and Clear Channel Outdoor may be putting their legal contest on hold. The city has offered a deal to the billboard company in which 17 billboards would be torn down, perhaps in three months. Clear Channel would also give up permits to erect more billboards.
City Manager T.C. Broadnax announced the proposal at the end of the Tacoma City Council meeting on Aug. 14. As of press time the two parties had not signed the agreement.
If Clear Channel accepts the deal, it would be allowed to keep some of the 190 signs deemed non-conforming by city code.
The proposal would put legal battles between the two sides on hold for two years. Broadnax said the deal would not mean litigation between the city and Clear Channel may not occur after that time.
The proposal would have Clear Channel apply for permits to demolish 17 billboards with 31 sign faces and remove them within 90 days. It would relinquish permits to relocate about 170 signs and repair 15 deteriorating signs within 90 days.
Tacoma is struggling to fill a budget deficit. Broadnax noted the budget issues as one reason to avoid legal wrangling that could be expensive for the city government. He called the proposal a “viable solution.”
The battle between the two parties over billboards began many years ago. Councilmember Marty Campbell expressed satisfaction the two sides have reached this point. “This is the biggest step we have taken in 30 years.”
Jim Cullinan, director of communications for Clear Channel Outdoor, did not want to discuss details on Aug. 15 because the agreement had not been signed.
“We are generally happy to be working with the city to find common ground,” he remarked.
This proposal will not allow or prohibit digital billboards, a new technology that has faced much opposition from some Tacoma residents. Cullinan said it is premature to discuss that type of sign in Tacoma. “That would require a number of things to move forward.”
He said this proposal would allow both sides two years to seek a legislative answer to the billboard question. Cullinan noted billboards have existed in Tacoma for 100 years. The company is pleased to continue to have a dialogue with city officials on this topic, even those who have voiced strong concerns about billboards. “We can respect those with a different view.”