Digital Billboards in Indianapolis

BZA Denies Variance Allowing New Digital BBs until After City's Sign Review is Completed

In the past two years, more than 60 Marion County neighborhoods came together to oppose digital billboards, until Indy Rezone has been completed and until Indianapolis city planners can take a comprehensive look at all sign ordinances, gather community input, review best practices from around the country, and propose what works best for our city and its residents. A discussion group began convening in August 2016 to discuss Indy Rezone. Participants include HUNI and other representatives involved in the neighborhood coalition fighting to give DMD city planners the opportunity to review digital billboards as it asseses Marion County's full signage ordinance.

Back on November 5, 2015, Indianapolis-Marion County Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) denied a variance that would have allowed one billboard company to convert two static billboards (inside the I-465 beltway on Eastside and Westside) to digital billboards. Residents from HUNI neighborhoods, as well as other neighborhood across the city, sent emails to the BZA asking it to deny this request until after the Marion County sign ordinance is reviewed. BZA agreed. 

For those following this issue nationwide, be sure to check out the following article about the moratorium of digital billboards in Reno, Nevada: City extends Moratorium on Electronic Billboards.

Council Committee Choses to Postpone Vote on Digital Billboards until April 6 meeting...Huge Disappointment for Neighborhoods Across City

Editorial by HUNI Website Editorial Board Chair, Lorraine Vavul 

January 26, 2015 Update--For those who were there until the bitter end (around 11pm), the hoped outcome -- i.e. allow the Department of Metropolitan Development planners to do their very capable work of revamping existing Marion County signage rules once Indy ReZone is complete -- was put off by a postponed Council subcommittee vote until April 6th. Instead, the bill's sponsor Mary Moriarty Adams asked Billboard companies to negotiate with neighborhoods on an acceptable mutual outcome. This ignores the fact that best group to engage in specific planning efforts on behalf of our citizens is the DMD. The outcome could have been worse, the Council subcommittee could have sent the existing draft of the ordinance to the full Council with the implicit recommendation that this is good enough to pass onto DMD for staff to review and edit as it finds fit. Problem is with the language so slanted to benefit one side, cobbling the ordinance together to get it acceptable for both sides is vastly more difficult. I trust DMD to start with a blank page, review the best practices across the country, get input from Billboard companies and city residents who have to live with the outcome and craft something which works for our city. I'm sure many will have an opinion, of which I will share links with our HUNI readers. The outcome resembled to me the quip of "putting lipstick on a pig." Allowing the ordinance language to be drafted by the industry it regulates, means you can pretty it up, but in the end, fundamentally you've started with a pig and you're going to end with a pig. Please encourage members of the Council to send DMD a blank piece of paper which can be used to write the sign ordinance that truly makes us the world class city we are.

Photo courtesy of Scenic America

Billboard Update -- January 1, 2015

As promised an update on the Billboard ordinance issue.

At the end of November, public outcries from neighborhoods—based on calls, emails and conversations--were heard and were successful in getting the proposed billboard ordinance sent back to the City-County Council’s Economic Development Committee. (See article below for details.)

Just before Christmas, representatives from the billboard companies met with David Hittle (NESCO), Norm Pace (McANA—Marion County Association of Neighborhood Associations) and Marjorie Kienle (HUNI-Historic Urban Neighborhoods of Indianapolis). Councillor Mary Moriarty Adams, sponsor of the ordinance, was in attendance at the meeting. Of particular concern was the omission of a public process for this ordinance, so that Indianapolis citizens can express their concerns and/or support. Please contact your Neighborhood Association President or HUNI representative to learn specific next steps. It is possible that there will be a public forum giving citizens the ability to comment later in January. Please continue checking back with our HUNI site as developments unfold. (Note: We apologize in advance for the strong potential of short lead times to share information.)


Council Moves to Postpone Vote on Billboard Ordinances

November 29, 2014--The City-County Council has postponed the vote on the Billboard Ordinance originally scheduled for Monday, December 1st presumably in part due to the public pushback on the ordinance not having sufficient buy in from community residents. Here's a video link summarizing the uproar citizens have expressed based on the Billboard company's tactics. 

On November 17th--despite HUNI President Marjorie Kienle's passionate remarks at the City-County Council Committee meeting about why the residents of historic neighborhoods do not want billboards in their neighborhoods--the billboard ordinance passed out of committee with only two no votes from our forward-thinking, preservation-minded Councillors Jeff Miller and Vop Osili. Here's a link to one onlookers view along with several minutes of Marjorie's remarks on that day. We will keep up to date info on this HUNI website, alerting readers as to when the Council vote will occur.  

On November 24th, Marjorie Kienle disseminated an email to HUNI reps encouraging them to share with their neighborhood associations possible next steps in fighting this ordinance from being accepted and thus allowing digital as well as additional static billboards over time. Click here if you'd like to know steps you can take including 1) sending a note to your and/or to all City County Councilors expressing your view on this issue; 2) attending the City County Council Meeting in which this ordinance will be re-scheduled to be heard. If you want to express your opinion of this ordinance, please go to the HUNI Facebook page and post your thoughts.

Residents of 28 neighborhoods gather to discuss views on City Council Proposal 250 allowing digital billboards thoughout City. 

On January 7th, 2015, representatives from 28 Indy Neighborhood Associations gathered to discuss their feelings about City-Council Proposal 250 allowing the legalization of digital billboards throughout Indianapolis. In the end the following statement emerged: “The consensus position within our coalition is that both the proposed ordinance, and the path it’s traveled thus far, are unacceptable.” A letter was developed by the five organizations spearheading the opposition to Prop 250. Click here to read a brief recap of the meeting and what specifically you can do to oppose or support Prop 250.

Actions you can take include:

*Expressing your feelings by writing the Metropolitan & Economic Development Committee of the Council.

*Writing or calling your own City-County Councillor to express your feelings

*Attending the upcoming of the Council's Metropolitan and Economic Development Committee (MEDC) on January 26th, 5:30 PM in the Public Assembly Room (200 East Washington St). It is possible this meeting will change so please check back in late January for any updates.


Since the requests of 50+ neighborhood organizations opposed to the billboard ordinance starting with the City Council's Metropolitan & Economic Development Committee and not the City's Planners at the Department of Metropolitan Development, the 'Coalition of Neighborhood Organizations Opposed to Prop 250' thought maybe a petition with hundreds and hundreds of signatures asking for this might resonate. Please sign our petition asking for the signage ordinance review to start with the DMD and not include prewritten language supplied by the Billboard Industry. Click here for a direct link to the petition or find it at: Share it with your friends, neighbors and family. If you tweet about it or share it on Facebook include: #DropProp250 so we can track it.

Prop 250--A Bad Deal for Indy

Here's a link to the very thoughtful and factually compelling presentation for the January 26 Metropolitan & Economic Development Council Committee put together by the Coalition of Indianapolis Neighborhood Organizations.

Coaliton publishes News Release Outlining Points of Opposition to Proposal 250; List of Neighborhoods Fighting Against Prop 250 Grows

The Coalition of Neighborhoods Opposed to City County Council Proposal 250 issued a news release on Friday, January 23 outline their points of opposition. Click here to read that news release. Click here to see the growing list of neighborhood groups opposing Proposal 250.  Please check out the list of links with stories on this issue.

Relevant articles links enumerating downside of billboards

Distracted Driving Stats, Articles and Information from SR22 Insurance website

Swedish Study Shows Digital Billboards Distract Drivers

Billboards Hamper Economic Growth

Digital Billboard affects Pennsylvania homeowners' Quality of Life

Huffington Post article on link between digital billboards and distracted driving (published Jan 19, 2015)

Digital Billboard Background Info...Here some of stories from earlier this year about Indy's Digital Divide

Indianapolis Star "Digital Billboards under glare of ethics concerens in Indy" (February 17, 2015)

Advance Indiana "Star has finally done its job of reporting on Digital Shenanigans" (February 17, 2015)

IBJ's IN ForeFront "Electronic Billboards: Process Doesn't Pass the Smell Taste" (February 3, 2015). Chime in on the discussion if you wish by using the article link!

Advance Indiana (January 26, 2015)

WCTY-16 Indy Government Channel, selected presenters (January 26, 2015) 

WRTV-6 (January 26, 2015) 

WISH-TV (January 26, 2015) 

Indy Star reports on the digital divide Prop 250 is creating (published Jan 23, 2015)

The Indy Channel reports on the growing opposition to digital billboards by neighborhood groups (published Jan 24, 2015)