Billboard in Ferndale Brings Backlash from Neighbors

Billboard in Ferndale Brings Backlash from Neighbors

(CP Proxmire, Aug. 6, 2019)

Ferndale, MI –The large black frame of a billboard went up in a matter of days at the Marathon gas station the corner of Ten Mile and Hilton, near I-696,  surprising neighbors and prompting reactions on social media. Residents near the billboard came to Ferndale City Council Monday to complain and inquire as to their rights.

“Will you be reassessing our taxes now,” said one resident who recently purchased her home and now has the view of the billboard in her back yard and windows.

Next door to the gas station is an apartment building with multiple residents who are upset.  The landlord of the building spoke Monday.  “This billboard is less than 100 feet from my building.  You have brought down the value of my building… Twenty-two years ago I bought this building and cleaned it up…  Every penny I’ve made has gone back into this building. It does not belong where it is at, and it certainly is not welcome to my residents.”

City officials are not pleased with the billboard either.

According to City Manager Joe  Gacioch “The City received this billboard request in 2014. Per our sign ordinance, the request was denied first by the Planning Commission and then by City Council. Claiming the sign ordinance was unconstitutional, the plaintiff in this case, Five Star Outdoor Media LLC, brought legal action against the City. They filed suit in Oakland County Circuit Court, which was then elevated to federal court due to constitutional claims. The City and plaintiff entered into a settlement agreement in 2016, with City Council mandating that the LLC must remove an existing billboard in the City before this one could be installed on the I-696 service drive (a large billboard on Woodward has been removed), and stipulating that the new sign cannot be LED or digital display.

After a long period of silence, movement on the removal of an existing billboard and construction of a new one has happened rapidly. The CED Department is monitoring the situation closely, inspecting daily to ensure that all codes and specifications are being strictly met.”

The billboard is in a location visible to drivers on I-696, as well as to neighbors across the freeway in Royal Oak.

The billboard that was removed was at Ardmore and Woodward Avenue, on top of an apartment building.

Mayor Dave Coulter remembered the challenges of the lawsuit. When asked what he would say to residents who are upset, Coulter told Oakland County Times “It was a tough decision, but in the face of an uncertain federal lawsuit I wanted to make sure the city got concessions, like the removal of a billboard on Woodward and the ban on digital and high density lighting, that could help offset the impact and that we wouldn’t receive if we lost in court.”

The fact that it could be worse is little comfort to the neighbors, particularly those closest to the structure.  “It’s wrong. It’s going to really affect our lives,”  said one resident. “It doesn’t seem like anybody really cares.”

At Monday’s meeting Coulter told residents that taxes are assessed each year. There is also an appeals process through the Board of Review.  City Planner Jordan Twardy also explained that if the billboard company does not comply with building codes or lighting levels etc, the City can take action.  Residents with questions can contact the Building department at 248-546-2525.

Note: This story has been updated to correct the brand of the gas station and to include the location of the billboard that was removed.

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