by Professor Michael N. Widener, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, School of Business and Of Counsel, Bonnett Fairbourn Friedman & Balint PC

eds note: what follows is the abstract of this paper by Professor Widener published in the Lewis & Clark Law Review published with his permission

Light emitting diodes and other lamping-source technological innovations, together with urban computing advances, spawn private sector competition and frequent citizen confusion within and among municipalities. Technological advances in outdoor displays promote creativity (and urban competitiveness, perhaps) while signaling the sponsor’s status. Such displays increasingly are imbedded in the built environment. Some generate light and glare that disorient and otherwise adversely affect adjacent dwellers. The outdoor advertising industry delivers media experiences that ignore other cityscape considerations in its quest to achieve the paying customer’s brand recognition goals. The mélange of municipal reactions steers local government administrations off course into the land use entitlements realm. Zoning, and those applying land use regulations to maintain civic order, umpire in often ad-hoc fashion the advent of increasingly conspicuous outdoor displays branding city enclaves that, often, lack any wayfinding purpose.

My paper proposes land use standards and their application to high-rise building outdoor displays for intensely urbanized mixed-use intersections of work, consumption, dwelling, and play. These standards seek equilibrium to optimize harmonious occupancy of the stakeholders. Competing urban concerns ought to be addressed, such as unwanted nocturnal over-stimulation inducing sleeplessness among full-time dwellers in mixed-use enclaves, and responsible stewardship of the environment. Such concerns, and the balancing of vibrancy and artistic sensibility with neighborhood preservation of peaceful residency, are addressed. I argue the virtue of adopting common-sense outdoor advertising and graphics’ governance metrics where cities inject into their “quality of life” mix supposedly upmarket phenomena like building façade decorations featuring wall-projected computer art and other interactive images.