Billboards raising concerns in Phenix City and Lee Co.

New billboards just outside of Phenix City are sparking mixed reactions among residents and shoppers.
New billboards just outside of Phenix City are sparking mixed reactions among residents and shoppers.

PHENIX CITY, AL (WTVM) - Two new billboards being put up along Summerville Road are sparking controversy and mixed emotions between citizens of Phenix City and Lee County.

"Personally, I think it's kind of tacky," Phenix City resident Paul Etchells said.

"I'm all for it. I think it's a positive thing," business owner Jason Carroll added.

The boards are approximately 45 feet tall and will have four faces, including one that will be digital. Folks in Phenix City are up in arms about them and taking their concerns to city council demanding answers.

"We have no jurisdiction here. There's nothing we can do. We're basically powerless," Gil Griffith, Phenix City's chief building official explained.

The main issue is some of these plots have been annexed and some have not. The ones in Pierce Crossing were unannexed, which means they belong to Lee County; the ones in Phenix Crossing belong to Phenix City.

Griffith provided a map, showing annexed into Phenix City and the white areas belong to Lee County.

When asked about the issue, Lee County Engineer Justin Hardee said because the structures are on private property, the billboards are acceptable.

"Lee County does not have zoning and so, without the zoning Lee County, in my understanding, without the zoning Lee County cannot issue those ordinances that would prevent someone from putting the signs up on their private property," Hardee said.

Bell Media, the company installing the signs, says their land lease is with the property owner and they acquired building permits through Lee County.

Scott Bell, owner of Bell Media, said on the phone Friday: "There's certainly been some push back, but there's also been a lot of support behind it."

Some shoppers like Sonya Malave say they support it fully.

"Sometimes we can stay in the same place and as technology changes we have to go along with it," Malave said.

The billboards are just frames now, but the side closest to the intersection will soon flash digital advertisements.

Hardee added that anyone with additional concerns about zoning or the billboards should reach out to the Lee County Commission.

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