Environment Picture

Press Releases

Legislation would open the door to more billboards along Michigan roads

Legislature poised to reverse key parts of state billboard restrictions; groups ask state House and Gov. Granholm to kill it
Jul 10, 2008

Lansing, MI -- Legislation killing billboard control measures could mean thousands more billboards along Michigan’s scenic highways and byways, and should be rejected by the State House of Representatives and/or Gov. Granholm, said the Michigan Environmental Council and Scenic Michigan today.

“In Michigan, we have established a cap on billboards,” said Abby Dart of Scenic Michigan. “This legislation would pry open that cap. It would allow the expansion and digitalization of thousands of billboards that are supposed to have been removed at the end of their useful life.”

Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed legislation in 2006 establishing a cap on billboards, saying at the time that “Michigan is blessed with beautiful scenery -- fields and forests, lakes, streams and hills” and that the 2006 cap would “ensure we don't lose that beauty in a mountain of roadside advertisements."  

“We expect the governor to be consistent in her commitment to helping keep Michigan free from the clutter of excessive commercial advertising,” said Lana Pollack, of the Michigan Environmental Council. “But we hope that the House of Representatives sees this legislation for what it is, and kills it before it gets any farther.”

SB 1370 was apparently written on behalf of one politically connected Saginaw billboard owner who wanted to bring his illegal billboard into compliance. But statewide damage would be done through provisions that:

  • Reverse hard fought 1999 spacing requirements for billboards. The 1,000-foot minimum space between signs on federal highways would be shortened to 500 feet. The 500-foot spacing minimum on primary highways would be reduced to 300 feet.
  • Would allow holders of on-premise signs to convert their permits to off-premise signs; paving the way for relocation and clustering of billboards all across the state.
  • Remove the prohibition on upgrading of “grandfathered” billboards that don’t comply with the newer laws – essentially removing them from the planned obsolescence that a 1999 law created, and paving the way for making them bigger and electronically digitized.
  • Allow an unlimited number of small billboards for religious organizations and service clubs.

Former Republican State Sen. Leon Stille, the sponsor of the 1999 billboard legislation informally dubbed the “Stille Bill,” said the pending legislation should not be allowed to reverse the hard-fought billboard reduction won almost a decade ago.

“The intent of my 1999 legislation was clearly that nonconforming billboards be phased out,” Stille said. “If the pending legislation gives those signs permanent status, it is a reversal of that law, and a significant change in policy. I would certainly not be supportive of that change.”

The legislation is expected to be considered as early as July 16 by the House of Representatives when legislators return for session.

Abby Dart, Scenic Michigan: 231-881-6266
Lana Pollack, Michigan Environmental Council: 517-487-9539
Hugh McDiarmid Jr., Scenic Michigan: 248-660-4300
© Copyright Michigan Environmental Council, All rights reserved