Two North Tonawanda officials have asked one of the nation’s largest outdoor advertising companies to take down what they call a lewd billboard after residents expressed shock at the ad’s adult content.
The billboard – located on a prominent corner of North Tonawanda’s Webster Street in the city’s revitalized, family-friendly downtown, advertises a Cheektowaga business and features a scantily clad model peddling “adult novelties.”
Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based Lamar Advertising owns the billboard.
“This kind of advertising doesn’t belong in North Tonawanda,” Alderman-at-Large Jeff Glatz said. “We have worked hard to protect our city’s family-friendly atmosphere. We are calling on Lamar to remove this sign immediately.”
Niagara County Legislator Rich Andres, who has been involved with various downtown improvement projects for many years, agrees.
“We’re in the midst of Canal Fest and tens of thousands of people are visiting our community, and this is not what North Tonawanda wants as their first impression,” he said.
Mr. Andres said he was taking his children out for ice cream when they noticed the offending billboard.
“As a father of a young family, I was mortified when my children began asking questions about the sign during a recent trip to the Canal Side Creamery,” he said.
Mr. Glatz told the Niagara Falls Reporter that the billboard sends a message that is in direct opposition to the family friendly values that he and other city leaders are trying to promote.
“This area has experienced a renaissance over the past several years, and this sign cheapens the entire downtown” he said.
Jay Soemann, president of the North Tonawanda Merchants Association, said, “Many of our local business owners have also commented on the billboard, and they are most definitely against having it in North Tonawanda.”
Mr. Glatz and Mr. Andres said they are asking Lamar to remove and replace the advertisement with a more appropriate ad.
“In the future, we ask that they consider the location of the advertisement when placing their ads, keeping in mind the family friendly atmosphere we have here in North Tonawanda,” Mr. Glatz said.
Outdoor billboards in the United States are protected by the First Amendment to a certain extent. In 1981, regarding the landmark case of Metromedia vs. City of San Diego, the Supreme Court determined that “Billboards are a well-established medium of communication, used to convey a broad range of different kinds of messages.”
But the Court also recognized that a “billboard creates a unique set of problems for land-use planning and development.”
Billboards are generally not protected by the First Amendment when they begin to create “visual clutter” or create unsafe conditions for the general public, such as being a distraction to drivers.
A call to Lamar Advertising for comment on the matter was not immediately returned.