By Tina Richards

The Orange City Council approved the conversion of a standard billboard to a digital LED version at its Nov. 14 meeting. Now all it has to do is amend the municipal code prohibiting electronic billboards.

The 20-by-60-foot billboard sits alongside Route 55, just south of Katella. In exchange for the conversion approval, the sign’s owner, Outfront Media, has agreed to remove two double-sided and one single-sided 12-by-25-foot billboards elsewhere in the city. The city will receive up to $20,000 for processing the agreement and changing the municipal code. It will also receive annual payments starting at $100,000, and decreasing to $85,000 for the next 25 years. The owner will also allow the city to use the electronic messaging to promote city events and for emergency information.

The agreement with Outfront Media is contingent on a change to the municipal code that currently prohibits new billboards and stand-alone electronic signage. If the city does not adopt an ordinance changing the code, the
conversion agreement is voided. If the city’s elected officials agree to change the code, the revisions will be presented to the planning commission and come back to the council for adoption at a later date.

Came with the territory
Although the city’s current code prohibits off-premise advertising, limits the size and height of freestanding signs, and restricts illumination, there are 11 billboards in place in Orange. Four of them front freeways and were permitted via a 1995 settlement agreement with former sign owner National Advertising. The other seven were installed in the 1970s, and were in place when the city annexed those properties. Three additional billboards are situated on county islands and are not subject to city restrictions.

The proposed digital billboard Electronic billboard gets preliminary nod from Orange City Council is visible from the Presidential tract, and several residents attended the city council meeting to ask that it be denied. Two reported the
light from the existing sign shines into their windows all night, and they fear that a billboard in constant motion will be worse. 

“That sign is visible in Villa Park,” Mel Veranan asserted. “The area given notice was inadequate, the amount of light is
not specified, and there’s no mitigation for the Presidential tract. None at all.”

Patricia Genderson called the sign “...ugly and disruptive. It will negatively effect my property values. It’s not conducive to a neighborhood environment.”

Blight light
Former City Councilman Denis Bilodeau reminded the council that he authored the anti-billboard ordinance to protect neighborhoods. “Nothing in this agreement limits candlepower,” he said. “It has significant impact. Do we have mitigation for blight?”

Outfront assured the council that new technology has reduced the electronic illumination, and the sign will not be any brighter than it is now. Removing the existing floodlights, an Outfront representative said, will reduce glare and may actually lessen the spillover effects. 

If the city modifies the municipal code, it could include restrictions on illumination and messaging change rates (4 to 6 seconds is standard) to minimize the impact on surrounding neighborhoods
and ensure the safety of motorists.

The council approved the agreement with a 4-0 vote. Councilman Mike Alvarez was not in attendance.

Electronic billboard gets preliminary nod from

Orange City Council

December 2017