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Our View: Council's decision on new billboards sets precedent

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The approval of three electronic billboards on Highway 65 and Interstate 80 sets a questionable precedent for our community. In making their decision, city council members chose to ignore the protests of many residents citing instead the need for a new source of revenue. With the city budget on the ropes, (this year running about $500,000 short) Rocklin’s coffers could gain about $100,000 in revenue from advertising on those billboards. The council’s recent action amends an ordinance in place for years that banned electronic billboards from lighting up roadways around the city. While this amendment specifies only three locations for Clear Channel’s new LED billboards, the precedent has been set. What will stop the council from approving more electronic billboards in the future? Will we become Billboard Town USA? When Roseville approved its bright LED billboard on Interstate 80 at the Roseville Automall, it burned a negative image in the minds of many residents and motorists. This time around, Clear Channel is promising new technology, claiming the sign will not be as brazen as Roseville’s billboard. And yet, more than a dozen residents protested the signs, one describing them as “sky trash.” Others balked at having the signs within 1,225 feet of their homes. Sierra Club representatives disapproved of the loss of open space on Highway 65. Many residents were convinced the signs, with their eight-second ad changes, would distract drivers, thus creating the potential for accidents. We’re not arguing that either side was right or wrong. We’re more concerned that a large number of residents took the time to speak out at Planning Commission and City Council meetings. City officials often comment that the public doesn’t attend meetings or take an active role. So, what happens when a large contingent of residents finally speak out? In this case, the council appeared to ignore the residents’ concerns. Instead, they voted to change an ordinance that would generate money for the city. While we acknowledge the city is in financial straits, we question the wisdom of ignoring the will of the people who did participate in the process.