Route 66 News

New developments in Round Barn billboard case

A couple of intriguing facts came out today in the Edmond Sun about an unpopular decision to erect a billboard just 25 yards east of the Round Barn in Arcadia, Okla.

In short, the billboard company says it informed the city about its intention to erect a billboard, and that the city has no ordinances to prevent one.

Before buying the land and erecting the billboard, Zoom Media spoke with an employee with the town of Arcadia, according to the statement. The employee purportedly told the company the town has no ordinances regarding building billboards.

Two other phone calls were placed in an effort to corroborate that information, the group said. Both times Zoom Media Group was told Arcadia had no ordinances regarding building billboards, and only the landowner’s permission would be required.

Zoom Media Group maintains it was diligent in checking town zoning ordinances and was sent a fax confirming that the property in question was zoned for commercial use.

The Arcadia Town Council will meet Tuesday night to discuss the issue. Local historical preservationists are particularly irked about the billboard because it would partially block the view of the Round Barn from the east.

First off, I didn’t find it surprising that Arcadia doesn’t have an ordinance against billboards. When I was in the newspaper business, I covered town boards of a similar size to Arcadia’s, and nearly all used only a nominal permit process for new construction. Basically, you’d inform the city what you were going to build, where it would be, and pay a small fee when you finished the application.

And tiny municipalities seldom, if ever, had billboard regulations on their books.

Second, I’m sure the company indeed called the city and that the city employee did say the town didn’t have a billboard ordinance. But I’m fairly sure the company was careful to not inform city where the billboard would go. Location is everything, as both Zoom Media and Arcadia are finding out the hard way.

UPDATE: An e-mail from Viola Davis of the Arcadia Historical Society asks some interesting questions:

This historical landmark is visited and photographed  by people from all around the world. It is used for weddings and family reunions.   Pictures are taken from every angle.  This bill board will destroy the view of the Round Barn.

There are so many issues to consider:

  • Can a strucure this size be erected w/o any permits
  • Can a strip of land (12 ft by 70ft) be zoned commercial
  • Can a huge structure be so close to HW 66 or historical landmark
  • How far away from property line does a structure need to be
  • What are regulations for bill boards
  • Construction guidelines
  • Sign pollution

We are looking for assistance in state/federal laws that would prohibit such a Hugh structure to be installed so close to a historical building and HW 66.

I don’t know the answer to these questions. I suspect those answers will come fairly quickly, though.

UPDATE2: Here’s a new story by The Oklahoman. A choice quote from the president of the historical society:

“If someone were to build something in front of the Eiffel Tower, the Parisians would be hopping mad,” he said.

UPDATE3: KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City posted a story Friday. It appears that the key element is whether the property is zoned residential or commercial. For now, it’s not certain.

UPDATE4: Here’s a local TV station’s report:

UPDATE5: The Oklahoman contacted Katherine Mazaheri at Mazaheri Law Firm in Oklahoma City. She said the law firm doesn’t intend to advertise on the billboard, nor did she “have any idea about the billboard.”

Zoom Media Group, which owns that land in Arcadia, is owned by Fariborz Mazaheri, whose company is in the same shopping mall as the Mazaheri law firm. According to another report, Fariborz Mazahri is Katherine Mazaheri’s father. Zoom Media purchased the land for the billboard from a local church.

9 thoughts on “New developments in Round Barn billboard case

  1. DynoDave

    I have mixed emotions about this.

    On the one hand, I hate to hear that the views of a historic landmark might be obstructed.

    But on the other hand, I have very little sympathy for the preservation society involved. Hind site is 20/20….it would be completely unfair to penalize the company that owns/built the sign if they followed whatever processes were in place.

    If the processes were inadequate, that’s the towns fault.

    If views of the barn were so critical, what did the preservationists due BEFORE HAND to try to secure the adjoining land? Obviously the owner was open to leasing it. It was foolish of those charge of this sites protection to assume it’s neighbor’s lands would always remain as is. I realize that like many preservation efforts, they probably work with limited resources. But was any effort made on their part to prevent this? Was it even thought of?

    What of the rights of the land owner to use the property as he/she sees fit. It was properly zoned, and he/she’s using the land to generate income for his/herself.

    I sincerely hope a lesson is learned here, to the benefit of this and other historic sites. But I also sincerely hope that this does not turn into a financial loss for the land and sign owners.

    Remember the six Ps…Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance. Seems like 2 groups did theirs, a third did not.

    We’ll find out more on the 19th.

    1. Ron

      Dave, I agree to a small point, except that a company has to be completely tone-deaf in placing a billboard at such a treasured historical site. Such a company would have to be laughably ignorant to not be aware of repercussions for such an act.

      Putting up a sight-blocking billboard at the Round Barn may be legal, but it’s unbelievably stupid.

      1. Jeff

        It would be stupid, and no doubt, would incur vandalism problems as well as be blighted from a business perspective. Anyone with any sense would not want to advertise on it, lest it incur the wrath of both the locals and the routies.

  2. Wil Rohan

    Dave, Ron,

    Sorry but I disagree. I am so sick and tired of greed-gone-crazy. Zoom Media obviously wanted to erect the sign here so people would “notice” it.

    I think they should be fined (unless the sign they erect, a little further down the road, is funny).

  3. DynoDave

    Ron,

    I’ve never seen the site, but can appreciate your “tone-deaf” comment.

    Jeff,

    If you are suggesting that roadies would vandalize a legally permitted and placed sign (assuming it proves to be so…we’ll know more after the 19th) simply because it doesn’t meet with their personal vision of how things ought to be, I certainly hope you are wrong. I would hope that of all people, Route 66 roadies would have an appreciation for personal property, and not want to see ANY property along the route defaced. Too much has already been lost on the Route to vandalism.

    Wil,

    If the sign proves to be illegal, there may well be fines involved. But if it is not, I don’t know what you could fine them for. There are no laws/fines against poor business judgment. If there were, we wouldn’t be facing budget deficits as a nation.

    Perhaps one way for all parties to salvage some sort of win here would be for the Round Barn to sign, say, a 99 year lease on the billboard, and advertise “stop and see the Round Barn, next right”? They would get more drive-by exposure with hours listed and such, the land owner gets his rent, and the sign company gets to keep its sign? I know, I know…a win-win-win…I’m an incurable optimist.

    1. Jeff

      Dyno Dave, No – I wouldn’t think many roadies would want to climb a billboard to deface it. There are plenty of things along the road it is fine to deface (or add public art to) like the Bug Farm, or Cadillac Ranch, the restrooms at the Rock Cafe, or that old gas station (foundation) out in the middle of the desert. I would just think an advertisement would fall into two categories – either a local audience, or a travelling audience. Locals or Roadies resenting a business for supporting the sign company might not do business. It’s just stupid to build a sign no one wants because the point of advertising is to build goodwill towards a business or cause, not attach negative feelings. I would suppose a political opponent might besmirch a rival by advertising FOR that other candidate on an unpopular sign, but that is far-fetched. As a roadie myself (or as Jerry McClanahan calls us, “Rooties”), it never crossed my mind that roadies might maliciously deface a sign, although from what I’ve read, I wouldn’t be surprised if a local or two might not be that upset.

  4. marylee

    Does anyone know if there is a specific sign for the billboard or is the company just hoping to find a customer? Could also be – the company figures if they’re enough of a nuisnce someone will pay them to go away. Anyone know what else this company does?

  5. Anonymous

    Give me a break. If they own the land, they have the right to erect a billboard. Besides, that neon sign for Aubrey McClendon’s little restaurant is much more obnoxious.

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