FRANKFORT — The House Transportation Committee unanimously approved a bill Tuesday that would allow billboard owners to cut trees obstructing their roadside signs.
House Bill 226 proceeds to the full House. The committee has approved similar billboard bills in previous years, but they have died later in the legislative process.
The bill would allow billboard owners to pay fees and apply for state permits to clear any vegetation blocking a view of their signs from the road. The Transportation Cabinet would inspect their work.
Representatives of the billboard industry told lawmakers that many Kentucky attractions and businesses depend on motorists getting a clear view of billboards. But environmentalists testified that the bill would "allow private interests to cut trees on public property," sometimes doing unnecessary damage.
The committee sided with the billboard industry.
"Most of the trees along the right-of-way are just scrub trees. These aren't oaks or walnuts or majestic trees," said state Rep. Jim DeCesare, R-Rockfield, a co-sponsor of the bill.
Kentucky has about 1,700 legal billboards and 800 to 900 "non-conforming" billboards, an official with the Transportation Cabinet told the committee.