The Mercury News

Council votes down digital billboard plan

4-3 decision denies appeal by company

- By Grace Hase ghase@ bayareanew­

A controvers­ial proposal to erect two digital billboards along Highway 101 in Gilroy has died.

On Monday evening, the Gilroy City Council voted 4-3 to deny an appeal from digital advertisin­g company Outfront Media and property owner Mike Conrotto, who wanted to put up an electronic billboard on his land on the 6400 block of Automall Parkway.

In February, the planning commission denied the proposal, leading Outfront Media and Conrotto to file an appeal that would give the council the final decision.

In the months proceeding the meeting, residents and environmen­talists expressed concerns about the billboards, asserting they would add to light pollution, compete with local businesses, distract drivers and change Gilroy's rural landscape.

Outfront Media and Conrotto, however, said the signs would help local businesses and tax revenue.

At the meeting, Councilmem­ber Carol Marques argued how important the money potentiall­y generated from the billboards would be for the city.

“How many times do we hear why can't we light up from First Street to 10th Street?” she said. “Well, lack of money. Why can't we fix all these potholes, why can't we do all this stuff? Money. If we have an opportunit­y to earn this kind of money for the city of Gilroy, I just feel we would be really foolish to deny it.”

But the question of whether local businesses would occupy the digital signs became a question for some — including Mayor Marie Blankley.

“To me, there is no question whatsoever about the value of advertisin­g,” she said. “But if who is on that sign is not a Gilroy business we got to realize that Morgan Hill Ford could be on there, not a business here but a business that actually competes with us.”

Since the appeal was denied, Conrotto and Outfront Media must now wait a year before reapplying.

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