New Billboard South of Leadville: VICELAND
By Kathy Bedell © Leadville Today
When you live in a small mountain town like Leadville, any slight change is noticed. So when the huge billboard south of town changed its advertisement from the old Subway (sandwiches) to the ginormous one word: VICELAND, the phones started ringing and the social media wires started buzzing.
Here are the facts. VICELAND is a new cable TV channel which will take the place of H2, an offshoot of The History Channel. The new arrival is geared toward millennials (18-34 yrs), a group of viewers who reportedly are migrating away from TV. The switch is expected to happen for local Charter Communication subscribers on February 29.
As for what the VICELAND channel will offer to cable TV subscribers, online reviews are mixed. Some program series will have four episodes, some six. The topics are varied, and include:
- “Flophouse” looks at up-and-coming comedians who live together in beat-up houses around the country.
- “Weediquette” investigates the science, culture and economics of the marijuana culture as it goes mainstream.
- “Balls Deep” features a host “hanging out with groups of people for four or five days.”
That said, it’s best to leave it to LT readers to decide if they like, or even tune into VICELAND. Viewers are encouraged to join the conversation on the LT Facebook Page, which comes with its own share of mixed reviews.
However, since the “sign of the times” south of town changed its message, many questions have arisen. They speak to the very nature of these advertisements, who owns them and how they are regulated.
So first, here is some background. In 1965, the federal government enacted the Highway Beautification Act (HBA), which called for states to restrict outdoor advertising along the Interstate Highway System and many state highways. In accordance with the HBA, Colorado enacted statutes and rules which limit the construction of outdoor advertising devices to designated locations. Today, that is known as the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) Outdoor Advertising Program Guide, which readers can read in detail: HERE.
However, there was an additional caveat to the CDOT rules, when this portion of Highway 24 was designated “The Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway” in 1999. Once this happened, no new signs were allowed along the route after the designation was official. But established signs like old #08439A were “grandfathered in” and allowed to remain.
Leadville Today had a chance to speak with Alan Clubb, CDOT’s Permits Coordinator for Region 3 who was able to provide additional information. This billboard is what CDOT calls a non-conforming board, explained Clubb. Simply put, since this billboard pre-dates the scenic byways designation, it can remain, provided its structure doesn’t change. The “face” (i.e. advertisement) can change but not the structure of the sign itself.
As for the content on the billboard, CDOT doesn’t mess with that, unless it’s advertising something that’s illegal in the state of Colorado. In fact, the permitting process doesn’t even require CDOT to review the content prior to it being displayed.
“Content is a freedom of speech issue,” explained Clubb. “CDOT wouldn’t even comment on any content.” After all, CDOT permits the location of the billboard, not what it says (aside from something illegal).
“We monitor it through phone calls like this, quite frankly,” he said. “If somebody puts something up, we hear about it pretty quick.”
So while there is no content review from CDOT, what about at the city or county level? It seems these governmental entities follow suit when it comes to billboards. And explained Clubb, it’s not unusual for the local governmental entities not to maintain any historical records of these giant advertisements, because the state has traditionally monitored outdoor advertising on state highways. In fact, anything that “is visible and meant to be read from a state highway is regulated by state.”
Under CDOT’s rules, while off-permit signs (i.e. billboards) are restricted, commercial signs, attached to a gas station for example, are not. If the sign is going to hang in the same lot as the business, then news signs are allowed.
It’s important to note that the billboard does not sit on CDOT property, as the state’s transportation department does not allow advertising on its right of ways. So then, who owns the land that the billboard is located on? That stretch of property is privately owned by Cheryl Molleur of Leadville. Therefore the lease with Outfront Media, who owns the sign, is private as well.
Leadville Today reached out to the billboard company, who refused to answer simple questions, mainly how long the contract was with VICELAND. Ultimately, how long will the sign act as the southern gateway welcoming people into Leadville? The company’s upper management declined comment, eventually pushing off the conversation to their corporate PR people in New York, who after several calls, never returned the favor.
So, is there anything residents can do to express their opinions? Can the sign be removed? Nope, it appears that old #08439A is here to stay, unless, as Clubb mentioned during the interview, it gets removed by natural causes.
“If a wind storm blows it down, for instance,” said Clubb, “Outfront Media would not be allowed to replace it.” However, if the sign were vandalized, they could.
While CDOT does NOT have a process in place for complaints, Clubb was open to having questions concerning the VICELAND sign directed to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
But, if you’re in the market to advertise on the space yourself, the guy to call is Paul Hiatt. His phone is (303) 333-5400. He’d be more than happy to take your call.