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Batavia aldermen debate whether to allow billboards

Published: Thursday, July 4, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

BATAVIA – Aldermen are exploring the idea of allowing a company to install a digital LED billboard on city-owned property along Kirk Road.

Lamar Advertising Company wants to install an off-premises billboard in front of a city water storage tank along North Kirk Road. The city’s zoning code currently prohibits off-site billboards.

Batavia Community Development Director Scott Buening said he is opposed to changing the zoning code to allow the proposed billboard. He said the sign could be distracting to motorists.

“We are trying to beautify Kirk Road,” Buening said. “We don’t think we should be opening what could be a Pandora’s box. We would have to allow more billboard signs on public property.”

Fifth Ward Alderman Steve Vasilion also voiced concerns.

“Once you allow them in one place, they are allowed everywhere,” he said. “It is a free-speech issue.”

As proposed, Lamar would pay the city $25,000 a year in rent. That would increase to $30,000 in year six of the proposed lease, and $35,000 in year 11.

Vasilion said he was also concerned about the billboard’s look.

“The amount of money doesn’t offset what I personally consider to be a blight,” he said.

Other aldermen, however, said they want to study the issue further.

“I want to know more,” 4th Ward Alderman Susan Stark said. “I don’t want to say absolutely not.”

Second Ward Alderman Alan Wolff agreed.

“I would like to know what the legal challenges are,” he said.

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