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Two digital billboards to go up despite Indy’s citywide ban

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH)-Two new digital billboards will be popping up in Indianapolis this year due to an agreement made in federal court this week.

The city has reached an agreement with a local billboard company to allow their digital billboards.

The company, Geft Outdoor LLC, said it lost money because of the city’s longstanding ban on digital billboards. The company took the city to court, and, under the new agreement, the city doesn’t owe the company money.

Geft Outdoor LLC now plans to switch two Indianapolis billboards to digital in early February, according to the company’s owner. Both billboards will be just off Interstate 70 in industrial areas. One is planned near 25th Street and Arlington Avenue, another near Holt Road and West Morris Street.

Until Tuesday’s agreement, digital billboards were only allowed in Indianapolis on state property. The agreement allows only the two Geft billboards and does not alter the city’s ordinance. Councilors, however, said they are considering whether the city should loosen restrictions.

The debate among drivers over whether the billboards belong in Indianapolis is far from over.

Dana Scruggs is an Indianapolis native who’s fought against digital billboards for years. She said the digital signs on the state fairgrounds are too bright and a distraction for drivers.

“Your eyes can be on the billboard the whole time you’re passing it,” Scruggs said. “You’re not looking at the cars around you. Who knows what’s going on?”

Chris Wells, on the other hand, is a truck driver who said he’s fine with the billboards as long as someone monitors the brightness and content to make sure it’s not too distracting.

“I personally don’t see it as a distraction,” said Wells. “I have found a few of them distracting, depending on what’s on the board. Sometimes they’re bright in the dark and sometimes they flash repeatedly,” Wells continued.

Under the new agreement, the company will have to monitor the brightness of the signs.

The signs will also, at certain times, display goodwill advertising by city organizations. Feeds for Amber Alerts, weather warnings and FBI alerts will also appear on the billboards.

Ads for tobacco and ads that are lewd or profane are not allowed.

Geft Outdoor LLC owner Jeffrey Lee released a statement on the agreement:

I am happy that we were able find an amicable resolution that came at no cost to the Marion County taxpayer.  Because GEFT exhausted a variance petition and timely sought judicial review, it was in a unique procedural situation that limits off-premises digital advertising signs on city-zoned properties to these two locations. Those locations are on busy interstates in heavy industrial corridors and are located far from any sensitively zoned areas and will be aesthetically designed to be iconic gateway signs to downtown Indy. I am also happy that they will also be utilized to promote the great city of Indianapolis.

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