Billboard issues came to a head in communities across the country this month, resulting for wins for scenic conservation advocates in Cape May, NJ, and Eureka, CA, and mixed results in Connecticut.
Earlier this month, Cape May, NJ, officials rejected two separate applications for digital billboards on roads leading to popular resort destinations. In considering the applications—one from West Coast-based Pacific Outdoor Advertising—the Middle Township Zoning Board recognized that while its municipal code currently prohibits billboards, the popular tourism destination may require stronger policies regarding billboard use. Many popular beach destinations, including Hilton Head, the Outer Banks, and the state of Hawaii, currently ban billboards. An editorial in the Cape May County Herald makes the case for scenic beauty: “Massive, lighted billboards, hulking over passersby, with ever-changing messages 24/7/365, are totally inconsistent with the bucolic magic of the shore.”
Scenic supporters also gained ground in the northern California port town of Eureka, where the city council voted on August 17 to amend the city’s sign ordinance to limit the number of digital billboards and their brightness within the town’s coastal zone. As reported in the Eureka Times-Standard, while not an outright ban on unwanted signage, “the amendment allows the city to regulate digital signage in some capacity until it can further narrowly legislate billboards.” Several town officials, along with the California Coastal Commission, raised concerns about the damaging impact of digital billboards, specifically noting light glare, coastal resource protections, and driver distraction.
In Connecticut, billboard conversion proposals were met with mixed results. The town of Milford, near Bridgeport, rejected a proposal to convert six billboards into digital along I-95. Local residents spoke out against the proposed conversion, citing concerns that the proposal could lead to additional digital signage in the area. The conversion had been previously proposed and rejected twice: first in 2019 and again in 2020. However, in Vernon, near Hartford, officials approved plans to convert a billboard in a high-traffic area along I-84 from static to digital.
Scenic America remains committed to supporting communities in their fights against intrusive signage and applauds officials in Middle Township, NJ, Eureka, CA, and Milford, CT, for taking action to protect their scenic qualities while creating safer roads. We urge Vernon officials to carefully consider the impacts of future proposed digital billboard conversions and Vernon area residents to take action against such developments.