September 20, 2013

Editorial: Some billboards in need of repair

Most of us are familiar with billboards, those large outdoor advertising structures usually found in high traffic areas, such as alongside busy roads and highways. They’ve seemingly been around forever.

They’ve gone through a lot of modernization over the years. Many are now digitized. Their frames are now often steel structures, not made of wood that were always at the mercy of Mother Nature and her sometimes nasty weather patterns.

It’s those wooden structures that have been mortally wounded in the North Country. Pounded by major snow, rain and wind storms in the past three years, many have fallen in disrepair, creating added eyesores for local communities already dealing with abandoned structures that have been almost destroyed by Father Time, fires and long-time neglect.

Many groups such as Scenic America have complained that billboards on highways cause excessive clearing of trees and intrude on the surrounding landscape with billboards’ bright colors, lights and large type faces, making it difficult to focus on anything else. A form of visual pollution, if you will.

And over the years, laws have been enacted banning billboards, some as early as 1909. Currently, four states — Vermont, Alaska, Hawaii and Maine — have prohibited billboards. Vermont’s law went into effect in 1968.

Many North Country residents bemoan the unsightly billboards, especially those that are broken and in disrepair; many lost their advertising messages long ago. But the community residents do nothing.

But there’s something each of us can do with a little time, effort and a telephone call or two.

Most North Country towns have zoning ordinances, laws focused on land usage within those municipalities. A good share of those laws deal specifically with signage, especially billboards.

For example, a recent inquiry about run down, dilapidated billboards southbound along the Adirondack Northway (I-87) between the superhighway and Route 22 south of Plattsburgh, revealed that they very well may be in violation of the Town of Peru’s zoning laws.

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