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  • Amy Mendillo for Providence Monthly

Digital Billboards? Neighbors Still Say “No.”

In Mid-February, the City Council Committee on Ordinances held a public hearing regarding a proposed change to our city’s zoning ordinance. The amendment, which has been debated for over a year and a half and largely repudiated by residents, would permit several highway billboards within the city of Providence to be converted to digital screens.

FPNA has opposed the digital screens for three reasons. First, neighbors have expressed concerns about safety, as more than 20 peer-reviewed studies indicate that the risk of highway accidents increases when drivers are distracted by electronic images. Neighbors have also described the signs as “visual pollution” that would detract from the appeal of our city, compromising quality of life as well as property values and other economic engines. Finally, residents fear that a permanent change to the zoning ordinance would set a dangerous precedent. While the proposed amendment would allow only a few e-billboards at this time, the bureaucratic door could easily open to future additions. A lawyer for the applicant (the Lamar Advertising Company) even admitted in a public meeting that the billboard advertising landscape could change dramatically should this amendment become law.

The e-billboard matter passed in committee in February despite consistent opposition from neighbors and most alarmingly, despite ample evidence regarding safety risks. It will proceed to the full City Council. FPNA encourages city residents to voice their opinions on this important issue.

Image, above: Under a proposed zoning amendment, certain paper billboards in the city could be converted to digital screens. Image, Courtesy FPNA.


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