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Politics & Government

The Millcreek Digital Billboard Saga Continues As Planning Commission Asks For Special Legal Counsel

A photo of a Millcreek city sign.
Emily Means
/
KUER
Millcreek is debating whether to enter into an agreement with Reagan Outdoor Advertising to install three digital billboards at a new city development. It’ll require amendments to the city’s billboard ordinance and the development’s master plan.

Millcreek’s planning commission wants a fresh set of eyes to help them sort through a controversial billboard proposal.

The city has drafted an agreement with Reagan Outdoor Advertising to swap out four traditional billboards for three digital ones. It would require changing the municipal billboard ordinance and the master plan for a new city center development called Millcreek Common. It includes a new city hall, as well as residential and commercial space.

When the planning commission was presented with the proposal in mid-September, they decided they needed more information before they could make a recommendation to the council about those amendments.

Shawn LaMar, the commission chair, told KUER he believes it’s a conflict of interest to ask advice from the city attorney because it’s Millcreek’s proposal and the attorney was involved in the negotiations.

“There's a lot of things at play, so that's why we want to make sure we take our time to review everything and also have access to legal counsel for any questions that may come up,” LaMar said.

Community members have expressed concerns about the proposal because of Mayor Jeff Silvestrini’s ties to Reagan, which include receiving thousands of dollars in in-kind donations from the billboard company. Silvestrini said he is recusing himself from Monday’s vote.

John Brems, Millcreek’s city attorney, said the planning commission’s request for conflict counsel is very uncommon.

“I have represented cities for more than 20 years, and I have never had a planning commission request conflict counsel,” Brems said.

Initially, the city council had requested to consider the billboard proposal by Oct. 11. LaMar said he appreciates the urgency, but the commission wants to thoroughly vet the application before it recommends any changes to city code.

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