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North Coast Prevention Coalition president Aaron Byzak talks about the negative affects of alcohol advertising. Photo by Ian Brophy
North Coast Prevention Coalition president Aaron Byzak talks about the negative affects of alcohol advertising. Photo by Ian Brophy
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Vista won’t pursue electronic billboards along state Route 78

VISTA — City Councilmember Cody Campbell announced that a proposal to put up electronic billboards in Vista had been terminated, at an NCPC (North Coast Prevention Coalition) sponsored community meeting on Wednesday at the Vista Library.Campbell, a former NCPC member, said the proposal to construct electronic billboards on city property along state Route 78 in order to raise revenue has been canceled because an Environmental Impact Report was too expensive.

The Environmental Impact Report would cost approximately $150,000 according to Campbell, but he said that is not the only reason the proposal had been called off.

“We have received a lot of negative public comments regarding the billboards,” Campbell said. “There is a lot of tension in the communities that would be affected.”

Aaron Byzak, president of the NCPC, was the host and main speaker during the community meeting. Byzak said he was happy to hear the proposal had been canceled, but was still concerned the proposal could be brought back to life.

“It seems to me that $150,000 on a project that is supposed to make you $300,000 to $400,000 probably shouldn’t be a barrier,” he said. “I think it’s positive movement that the project is dying, but I am concerned that it could come back.”

Byzak added the NCPC is not against the billboards, but is against the billboards advertising alcohol.

“Our organization is not here to prevent digital billboards from happening,” Byzak said. “We were concerned about alcohol advertising because we know it is directly connected to youth alcohol use.”

The proposal partnered the city with CBS Outdoor to manage the billboards. According to Campbell, CBS would handle most of the advertising management as long as 15 percent were public service announcements and the remaining 85percent were commercial advertisements.

More than 40 people attended the meeting, which featured multiple speakers and an opportunity for attendees to ask questions.

Nancy Holbrook, a resident of Vista, said she opposed the billboards entirely, and that the involvement of CBS Outdoor makes her think the proposal is not dead yet.

“I am concerned that there may be some offer of money from (CBS Outdoor) to affect that Environmental Impact Report and I am not convinced this issue is dead,” she said.

Holbrook added that the billboards are a safety issue for drivers on state Route 78 and a stain on the city of Vista.

“These billboards are extremely distracting and anybody who reads the local news sees there is always a ton of accidents on highway 78,” she said. “It is also a blight and it is not the image the city needs to convey.”

According to the city of Vista website, the proposal would have likely been the second largest single revenue source in the city’s portfolio.

Byzak said the billboards should be done in a way that satisfies the community.

“I think there are ways to do it that meet everyone’s needs,” Byzak said. “The NCPC is not necessarily against the billboards themselves, but our approach from the beginning was to make the city officials aware of what was going on in the community.”