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Legislation finally addresses billboard proliferation along Michigan roadways

Michigan ranks second in the nation in the number of billboards, according to Scenic Michigan, an affiliate of the national nonprofit group Scenic America. This proliferation of billboards attacks the visual beauty of Michigan. However, with Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s approval of new legislation, positive changes are on the way for 2007.

Senate Bills 567 and 568 will help preserve Michigan’s scenic beauty. SB 567 was introduced by Michigan State Sen. Tom George (R-Kalamazoo), whose guidance and support helped secure passage in the legislature. Sen. George’s legislative effort to cap the number of billboards in Michigan was the basis for Scenic Michigan’s support.

There are over 16,000 billboards in Michigan, and an additional 300 permits on average have been granted each year. SB 567 caps the number of billboards so that this continued increase of billboards will finally come to an end.

In addition, there are approximately 1,200 permits, which have been issued by MDOT but not yet built. Beginning in January of 2008, only one of three of these outstanding permits can be retained for future use. Said Bethany Goodman, President of Scenic Michigan, “We are pleased the Michigan Legislature has passed these bills as a commitment to the people of Michigan that ‘the view from the road’ is worth protecting.”

Scenic Michigan has been meeting with representatives from the Michigan Department of Transportation and the Outdoor Advertising Industry for the past year in an effort to work out specifics of the legislation, which includes managed tree trimming in front of billboards. We anticipate that the Michigan Department of Transportation will manage the trimming of trees in front of existing billboards in a reasonable manner. Under SB 568, introduced by Sen. Jud Gilbert (R-Algonac), there are important safeguards in place to regulate such trimming, including considerations for safety, and the need to protect the environment and unique natural features that surround our roads and highways. In addition, there are significant penalties for improper trimming.

Scenic Michigan is an affiliate of the national nonprofit organization Scenic America. “Scenic Michigan’s mission is to preserve, protect and enhance the scenic and aesthetic character of Michigan’s communities and roadsides.” Michigan citizens who support this mission are invited to join. The web site is www.scenicmichigan.org or email info@scenicmichigan.org.
-Scenic Michigan
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