Billboards raise safety concerns for residents
By Randa Wagner –
A newly-formed and determined campaign is underway in Cardington Township to correct what one group considers a serious error in judgment.
“Concerned Citizens for Your Safety,” an advocacy group spearheaded by Gilead Township residents Vicki Kerman and Linda Harvey, is seeking to have newly-constructed billboards removed at the curve on State Route 42 north of Cardington. Kerman, Harvey, and other group members believe the billboards pose a safety hazard on an already dangerous curve which had fatalities and numerous accidents in the recent years including a serious accident in late May.
“Cardington Township made a mistake in issuing a permit without a variance,” Kerman says. “There are significant safety issues involved with these billboards going up and, given the zoning objectives, there is no question as to whether a variance should be (or should have been) issued. However, the overriding safety issues and potential litigation issues when (and not if) ‘Johnny’ wraps his car around one of those steel columns are overwhelming.”
The Township regulations state that billboards must be at least 30 feet from the centerline of a roadway and 150 feet from an intersection (unless the sign is affixed to a building). The billboards in question are more than 150 feet from the intersections of SR 42 & TR 143 and SR 42 & CR 128, but less than 150 feet from the intersection of CR 128 & TR 143. It would require a variance to overcome, in the case of a ‘hardship,’ the regulation which, Kerman says, was not obtained by Lind Media.
So she filed a complaint with the state attorney general’s office.
A big issue in calculating the distance from intersections has been whether or not the point at which TR 143 and CR 128 meet is a genuine intersection. CCFYS maintains it is, and cites the Ohio Revised Code’s definition: Section 4511.01(KK)-1 “Intersection” states:
“The area embraced within the prolongation or connection of the lateral curb lines, or, if none, the lateral boundary lines of the roadways of two highways that join one another at, or approximately at, right angles, or the area within which vehicles traveling upon different highways that join at any other angle might come into conflict. The junction of an alley or driveway with a roadway or highway does not constitute an intersection unless the roadway or highway at the junction is controlled by a traffic control device.”
Not only would traffic be affected by conflict, but there is also a stop sign (a “traffic control device”) to ensure safe traffic flow.
The group maintains not only was the permit approved by Cardington Township mistakenly issued, they also believe a variance should not be granted to Lind Media since placing billboards on the triangular parcel of land at the intersection “violates Cardington Township’s zoning objectives of ‘improving public safety’ and ‘protecting the character and values’ of the community.”
Flats Capital, an affiliate of Lind Media, purchased the property in May after having received both Township and State permits to install a four-panel outdoor advertising sign. The signs are mounted on steel columns which the citizens’ group believes pose a far greater hazard for serious injury during an accident on the curve than a grassy area free of obstructions.
The whole issue first came up when Kerman was having breakfast with friends, talking about the billboard support columns that had been erected.
“Everyone was saying, ‘What were they thinking? Someone should look into this!’” Kerman recalls. “So when I got home, I looked up Cardington Township’s zoning regulations on their website and found that the regulations on outdoor advertising were not met.”
The group made a presentation Monday evening to the Cardington Township Trustees on the issue. Nineteen concerned citizens were in attendance and listened as Kerman, Harvey, her husband Don, Dan Bauer, Bill and Peggy Griffin, and Cardington Fire Chief Jim Ullum spoke to the safety hazard, and to the fact that the Township had indeed issued the permit in error. The president from Lind Media was in attendance and spoke briefly to billboard safety studies.
Also in attendance and accompanied by his parents was Thomas Brandum, who was severely injured in an accident on the curve May 30 of this year. He, too, spoke from his experience.
A discussion of just less than an hour took place. The matter is under review by the trustees.
“We are so grateful to those who came out to this meeting,” stated Harvey. “It’s important not only for local residents but also for those from out-of-town who travel this corridor frequently, if not every day. You are elected personnel. You have to answer to the people who elected you. You need to be covering our backs. Somebody needed to say ‘We need to table this and take a look at it.’”
“Billboards are distracting – you have to look at them to read them,” Harvey continued. “At the same time you’re trying to watch the roadway and traffic on a curve. It’s just not a good idea. And those steel columns present a huge safety hazard for someone who loses control of their vehicle, for whatever reason. And it’s “not if, it’s when.”
The group’s slogan, “Safety is Not For Sale,” emphasizes their belief that potential profits from advertising should not outweigh the risks of the additional distraction a billboard may pose.
Citizens interested in finding out more about this issue can go to CCFYS’ website, www.billboardsafety.org. An audio recording of the session is available on this website, under the tab, “Follow the Process.”