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The Freewheeling, Lawless World of Outdoor Advertising

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Of the 183 billboards along I-95 in Philadelphia, about half of them violate basic zoning regulations. That's not to say that they're illegal: many have been grandfathered in from the heady days of laxer zoning code, and others won their right to stand in a 2005 lawsuit. These statistics would be troubling if billboards had an impact upon, say, surrounding property values.

Scenic America, an anti-billboard advocacy group, claims that billboards clutter the landscape ("sky trash,") and that they encourage obesity, underage drinking, and traffic accidents due to distraction. However, billboards also have an impact on the bottom line: A study in Philadelphia found that properties within 500 feet of a billboard had a $30,000 decrease in sale price. This study was founded by SCRUB, (the anti-billboard group which now goes by Scenic Philadelphia,) so a grain of salt is appropriate, but it seems reasonable to expect that billboards have negative impacts on their neighbors.

Outdoor advertising companies in Philly are now trying to convert a large number of billboards, (many of which are incompatible with current zoning code,) into digital billboards. City Council attempted to write a new chapter of the zoning code to deal with billboards, but it will be put aside until after the council's summer recess, due to opposition from billboard companies and anti-billboard activists.
· Mixed messages: Philadelphia's struggle to create lasting billboard regulations [Plan Philly]
· New Billboard Study adding Fuel to Billboard Fire in Revere [Revere Journal]