Savannah alderwoman tackles the ugliness of billboards

Earlier this week in the SMN, 4th district alderwoman Mary Ellen Sprague tackled the issue of billboards: Let’s put an end to ‘ugly’

Aside from the three easily spottable errors (argh), I found this to be a convincing and interesting op-ed.

Sprague argues for the eventual elimination of billboards throughout the city. Such a move is not without precedent, as Sprague notes:

Can we live without them? Certainly. There are no federal or state laws that require we have them. Whole states, such as Maine, Vermont, Hawaii and Arkansas, do not allow them at all. San Francisco, San Antonio and Denver prohibit them.

Closer to home, there are no billboards on Hilton Head Island.

I would be in favor of a sunset date for billboards, maybe a decade or two out.

Sprague also raises a critical issue that deserves more attention: the ways in which we have protected and encouraged beauty in the Historic District but neglected it in many parts of the city. As she notes:

“[. . .] most of the rest of Savannah does not enjoy the same level of either legal protection or beauty that the Historic District enjoys.

Because of this, much of the rest of Savannah has become Anywhere USA. No identity, no style, no character.

This issue goes well beyond billboards. I would love, for example, to see Southside stakeholders (Armstrong, communities like Windsor Forest, major commercial property holders, the malls, etc.) get together to craft a bigger vision for Abercorn with more green, with nodes of development that are more accessible for bicyclists and pedestrians, and so forth.

Just because parts of Savannah are Anywhere USA right now, that doesn’t mean they have to look the same forever.