They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder: Last month, Council Member Dan Kealey made a brief case for that much-maligned form of roadside advertising—the humble billboard. Tuesday night, the council will pick up the topic again during a worksession.
Since the mid-1980s, Burnsville has gradually pruned billboards from the city's landscape as per city ordinance, with the ultimate goal of eliminating them entirely. Kealey argued that the code was perhaps outdated.
"Billboards are nothing like what they used to be. They used to be not-a-very-nice looking thing," Kealey said. "Today they're a completely different: They're appealing and they have far better graphics, with LED as opposed to fixed, painted graphics. I think it's time that we take another look at it because the decisions made 10 or 15 years ago need to be re-evaluated."
Kealey and others on the council have been approached by Clear Channel, which has asked the council to reconsider the use of large LED signs within city limits. The media behemoth has expressed interest in putting up LED billboards at two points along Interstate 35: One on a triangle of land right at the split between I35E and I35W, behind , and another further north, on the west Frontage Road near the site of Select Inn.
Council Member Mary Sherry could clearly remember the "huge battle" that raged in the 1980s over large-scale roadside signage.
"I think the conclusion at that time was that the view of the river valley was more aesthetically pleasing than any billboard could be," Sherry said. "And I think that comes at a cost—to keep that free of visual interruption."
Sherry and Mayor Elizabeth Kautz both said the question boils down to this: Does the city want more billboards or not?
Council Members Dan Gustafson disagreed. He, Kealey and Council Member Bill Coughlin said they would like to open the matter for discussion, at the very least.
"It doesn't have to be more billboards. It can be replacement of billboards," Gustafson said. "There are many ways to skin this cat. It's not automatic that you put up billboards everywhere."
Nevertheless, Sherry said she wanted to give the public ample opportunity to weigh in before making a decision.
"The public should know that what we're talking about is like a giant TV screen," Sherry said. "And while we've all been lobbied very heavily by Clear Channel, I would like to hear from the public about what they want. That has to come into the discussion."
The public is invited to hear Clear Channel's presentation and weigh in during the next council worksession on Tuesday. But don't wait to put your two cents in: Let's get the conversation started in the comments.