Billboard

ACMNA’s conceptual rendering of the digital billboard.

For the past four years, a battle has been fought in the Arcadia area – and it all centers on the northeast corner of 42nd Pl. and Indian School Road. The proposition for a digital billboard, which has been strongly opposed by residents and businesses alike, continues to persist. 

Arcadia News spoke with Tristahn Schaub of the Arcadia Camelback Mountain Neighborhood Association and Neal Haddad of the Arcadia Osborn Neighborhood Association to learn more about the most recent verdict and what the future may hold for that corner. 

 

When did Becker Boards apply to put a digital billboard on Indian School Road?

Becker first applied to rebuild and relocate the existing non-digital sign on its property in August 2017. They told city planners and the neighbors that the sign at 4234 E. Indian School Road would not be digital. They were approved to reconstruct and relocate the static sign. A hearing officer granted them the right to raise the sign seven feet (from 33 to 40), ‘butterfly’ the angle and move it to 10 feet from the street, instead of 25. 

These were significant changes that the hearing officer admitted he would have felt differently about if it were a digital request. Still, Becker Boards had committed at the hearing that they would keep the sign as a static billboard. Three weeks later, Becker applied to make the sign digital. That was in November 2017, marking the first denial for Becker Board’s digital conversion request.

 

How many times have they been denied?

There have been four applications by Becker to convert the static sign to digital. The first in 2017, the second in 2018; an appeal to the city’s Board of Adjustment (BOA) followed in 2018 and the most recent application on September 9, 2021. Thus far, Becker has been turned down at this location four times by three different Zoning Hearing Officers (ZHOs) and once on appeal by the BOA. In all cases, the ZHO and BOA have shared the same concerns that the community has toward neighborhood deterioration and safety risks. 

4234 E. Indian School Road is not only the location of this billboard, but the building below is also Becker’s corporate headquarters. Little Woody’s Bar is next door.

 

Why are residents opposed to the billboard?

More than 275 neighbors expressed what most people would characterize as vehement opposition to the proposed digital sign, citing incompatibility with the neighborhood, driver distraction, negative effects on traffic safety; and, negative effects on property values. The local businesses, Sacks Sandwiches and The Attic Ale House, would be immensely impacted by the beaming colors. The entire second floor would have had its mountain views spoiled by blinding color arrays changing every eight seconds. In addition, the reflective light would cause bedrooms to change color at night in neighboring homes.

Neighbors who opposed the application and argued before the hearing officer cited legal reasons why the digital billboard could not be approved, including a less than 500-foot separation from residential zoning, the billboard would downgrade property values, it would be a degradation of the area, and the sign would produce glare above ambient conditions. Chief among the legal reasons to deny is that Becker does not have and was never granted permission to rebuild a digital board, only the non-digital board. To do that, Becker would need to file for and be given the permission (a variance) to relocate and rebuild a digital sign.

How many times can a company appeal the final decision?

There are three stages, the first is with the ZHO, the second is with the BOA, and the third is a costly legal appeal to Superior Court. Even if The Superior Court ruled against the applicant, they could still resubmit an application the very next year. For a billboard such as this, the $1,380 application fee pales in comparison to the potential revenue they would generate in a single month. We know of no other applicant like this where they apply continuously in such a manner. For neighbors, it’s a costly, time-intensive battle at every stage. For the applicant, it’s merely legal and filing fees that, once granted, pay for themselves.

 

What will be done if Becker decides to appeal?

Neighbors will challenge an appeal to the Board of Adjustment and provide examples to the board of the four previous denials. If the appeal is granted, we once again must build our case, enlist the support of our community and invest hours of our unreimbursed personal time. Why do we do it? Because we love Arcadia and we believe that its unique character is worth preserving. 

 

Why don’t they find another place for the billboard?

The 85018 zip code has some of the highest property values in Phoenix, which makes the limited commercial space and commercial advertising options a premium. Digital billboards generate three times the revenue of static billboards. The lower per-ad price makes ads more accessible, and they can sell a ton of them with a host of targeting options. The advertisers argue it’s the wave of the future. Still, unlike invasive digital ads on our personal devices, there is no pop-up blocker or ad-blocking software option for motorists. We wonder why it’s illegal to look at a 3x7 inch cell phone screen while driving, but we should allow a 14x48 foot screen to shine at us during rush hour.