Councilman wants a vote on controversial billboard

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Pittsburgh Councilman Bruce Kraus will push for a council vote Tuesday urging the cancellation of the permit and contract for a controversial Downtown billboard.

"The public has been excluded from the process," he said of a permit and contract for a 1,200-square-foot Grant Street sign inked by city officials without public votes or hearings. Grant Street "is the Main Street of the entire city of Pittsburgh. . . . People have a voice in how that Main Street progresses or doesn't progress."

Mr. Kraus said the resolution is nonbinding but didn't rule out council taking other actions. Council President Doug Shields has said he may go to court to reverse the permit.

Mr. Kraus said he wants the sign permit application to go before the Zoning Board of Adjustment, the City Planning Commission and council for hearings and votes. Some city code provisions call for those measures for signs, and for Downtown construction, but Urban Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Pat Ford has argued that they are all inapplicable.

Also a must to Mr. Kraus is a competitive process by the Pittsburgh Parking Authority to decide who gets the opportunity to put a sign on the Grant Street Transportation Center, a parking garage and Greyhound Lines station to open in summer. Authority officials offered the opportunity only to Lamar Advertising, as part of a deal in which it would take down six other billboards.

"Now we have other contractors coming in and saying they want the opportunity to bid," said Mr. Kraus, referring to a story in today's Post-Gazette in which Craig Heard, president of Gateway Outdoor Advertising, said his and other firms should have had a shot at the spot.

He acknowledged that Lamar could conceivably sue if the authority scrapped its contract but said competitors could sue if it doesn't.

"Had this followed the proper process, we wouldn't be in the position of worrying about who sues whom over what," he said.


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