Council looks towards permit program for advertising benches

PORTSMOUTH – Advertising benches have been a point of contention within the city of Portsmouth for months. Initially, the subject was brought up by 5th Ward Councilman Joey Sandlin, who stated the benches attracted crime, litter, and were unsightly.

Now, 1st Ward Councilman and Mayor Sean Dunne has a potential solution: a bench permit program which would require permission from the property holder and the city to place any advertising benches, trash cans, or other advertising mediums of advertisements.

“As we stand as a City, there is nothing in writing that says someone can’t add countless additional advertising throughout the city, or, even different types of small structures to host additional advertising,” explained Dunne. “A permit program prevents that problem from happening. It establishes a base foundation.”

Dunne explained he has received lots of feedback from residents and business owners.

“I’ve heard concerns about public safety, about driving near certain areas with near misses with folks utilizing the benches, issues of aesthetics…litter and garbage. We’ve talked about ways to reduce litter. Not only is it our duty to not litter in our city, but to figure out ways to reduce the production and respond to litter. This permit program gives us an opportunity to think about how spaces are regulated and by who.”

Fourth Ward Councilwoman Lyvette Mosley said many cities across the countries are banning private advertising benches.

“A lot of cities are getting rid of them all together. The cities are putting their own benches down. All the private benches are getting moved – even around places with public transit.”

Sixth Ward Councilman Dennis Packard said the benches need to be better maintained.

“You would think both parties would like something like this so there are rules and everyone knows what they are…my biggest concern has always been safety and this program addresses that these benches have to be maintained.”

Third Ward Councilman Andy Cole says the permit program is a good, unobstructive way to regulate advertising benches.

“This is laid out really simply,” said Cole. “It makes sense. I see a dollar per bench per year as a permit fee. I see permission needed from the owner, which makes sense…it’s simple and not too obstructive.”

Mayor Dunne promised to flesh out the permit program and bring it forward at the next City Manager’s Agenda meeting for approval.

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