Billboard request poses threat to historic neighborhoods

A photo showing an excessive amount of billboards and outdoor advertising everywhere in sight.

Stand with historic neighborhoods by opposing recent variance requests made by the advertising companies to the City's Board of Zoning Appeals.

Spaces within the City of Indianapolis and Marion County have regulations and ordinances in place to foster, maintain, and protect an inviting visual environment. These include reasonable limitations—but not an outright ban—on billboards and other outdoor advertising. Many cities across the country, with whom we compete for talent and business, restrict billboards in similar ways. Our neighbors to the north in Carmel also prohibit digital billboards and also enforce strict standards for outdoor advertising.

This does not stop billboard companies from requesting exceptions—called variances—to these protective measures. Reagan Outdoor Advertising has requested two additional variances, which drastically encroach upon existing standards.

We need help and involvement from residents and neighbors to remonstrate against these requests and uphold our standards.

Two requests now face the City's Board of Zoning Appeals:

  • December 12 hearing
    Request is to move one of the signs to 2400 Roosevelt Avenue (inside I-465). They are requesting the following excessive exceptions:
    • A height of 70'
      The current allowable height is 40'
    • A setback of only 6’
      The current requirement is 60'
    • A 130' distance from a protected district (residential neighborhood) and a 220' distance from a freeway entrance
      The current standards are 300' and 500', respectively
  • December 19 hearing
    Request is to move one of the signs to 1841 Ludlow Ave. This request includes the following, also excessive, requests:
    • A height of 70'
      The current allowable height in this area is 40'
    • A setback of only 5'
      The current requirement is 60'
    • A 197' distance from a protected district (residential neighborhood) and a 630' distance from another sign
      The current standards are 300' and 1000', respectively

Both hearings are for signs that are being relocated from I-69 on Indy's southwest side due to road construction. While the original requirement was that the relocation needed to be nearby, the State changed the requirement to expand relocation options. However, the newly selected locations are WITHIN I-465, which is not permitted by City ordinance.

Been here before

In 2022, a variance was requested and denied to construct a digital billboard at the Roosevelt site, which is close to the interstate as motorists approach town. Even if these signs remain static, they create a busy, in-your-face visual environment that puts commercial interests over the beauty of our city as one enters. Visualize I-70 in Richmond as you enter Indiana from Ohio or I-65 as you enter Indiana from Louisville.

Our standards need our collective vigilance

HUNI was highly involved in the 2019 rewrite of the zoning ordinance for signs. Digital billboards and any new static billboards inside I-465 have not been allowed since 1971.

In 2015 the billboards companies began a campaign to pursue digital billboards in Marion County and a weaking of other requirements. The revised zoning ordinance for billboards was passed unanimously by The City-County Council in 2019 maintaining the ban on digital billboards, upholding no new billboards inside I-465, and clearly defined other elements—such as height and size and closeness to road.

In 2022 the billboard companies, particularly Reagan, filed 21 variances to allow digital billboards and other variances that significantly encroached on the zoning standards. Each hearing took well over an hour each, which often stretched into a time frame that resulted in commissioners leaving and no quorum. After more than 6 months of hearings, all that were heard were denied. The coalition of neighborhood organizations throughout Marion County, including HUNI, that oppose these billboards and the companies' continued efforts at eating away at the sign ordinance, continues to grow.

These efforts need you

Please consider joining HUNI in opposing these requests. The Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) meets on Tuesdays (these hearings are scheduled for December 12 and 19) in the City-County Building, in the Council Chamber on the 2nd floor. You do not need to testify, but visible support to oppose these applications DOES make a difference.