GRAND PRAIRIE, TX — Tuesday, February 19, 2019
Although municipalities are known for their dislike of advertising signage (think billboards and bus stop shelters) in their jurisdictions, the city council of Grand Prairie, a city of some 193,000 located just a few miles west of Dallas, has agreed to allow Point of Sale Outdoor Media (POSO) to install its solar-powered signs at the Great Southwest Crossing shopping center. The devices are exclusively intended to reach shoppers already on private property and will not be burdened by “On-Premise” restrictions that might otherwise trigger a lawsuit on constitutional grounds.
The city’s planning staff and commission worked closely with POSO top management for more than a year to formally define a new category for signs that are not located along public thoroughfares. The new signs help to reduce visual clutter by relocating commercial messaging that formerly occupied billboards on public streets, which are now banned, to purely commercial private venues — brick and mortar shopping centers.
When the discussion began, the city struggled with the on-premise dilemma of whether to allow a Coke® advertisement in front of Petco® if it wasn’t sold there. They eventually decided that a sign code dependent on such thin interpretation could only be problematic and could run afoul of free speech rights. The council also decided that there are more effective ways to manage ad content without creating ordinances that restrict it, and POSO agreed to work with the city and shopping center property owners to make certain that no objectionable advertising would be posted.
This approach avoided the hot-button issues of “content-neutrality” and visibility from common rights-of-way, as well as parking lot safety, and the accurate meaning of on-premise, as defined by the United States Sign Council. Each of these issues have prevented open air shopping centers in many municipalities from developing “On-Site” advertising, such as enclosed malls have as part of their core business model. The revenue created by such advertising is a need made more urgent by the current challenges facing American retail.
According to POSO President and CEO Raymond Rodriguez, “Government doesn’t function like business. Beyond economic concerns it must acknowledge the will of their citizens and their vision for their city or state. Where some cities have found work-arounds, and others have closed their eyes to retail’s problems, the Grand Prairie, TX City Planning Staff and Council Members are to be commended for being the first city in the country to recognize this glaring deficiency and tackle it head-on!”