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News: September in GCA History

 

September 14, 2017

In September 1920, the Highway Commission of Massachusetts held a well-attended public hearing about enforcing a new constitutional amendment passed in 1918 that regulated and restricted advertising “on public ways, in public places, and on private property within public view.”  

According to a recap of the meeting in the December 1920 issue of the Bulletin, the North Shore Garden Club of Massachusetts was “strongly represented” at the hearing by club members, their “appointed spokesman and legal advisor,” a Mr. Homans, and renowned landscape architect and honorary club member Fletcher Steele.  The new law’s enforcement permitted the club, Steele, and other notables to succeed in curbing the use of billboards by advertisers.  Emboldened by this success, other GCA clubs leapt into action, giving the rest of the country impetus to pursue billboard regulations.

Work on this project began in 1914 when an official GCA committee was set up “to inquire into the opportunities for Beautifying Settlements and Highways.” Fast forward nearly 100 years, and the GCA continues to emphasize protection of the natural landscape and to address the visual, safety, and environmental hazards of electronic billboards.

In 2014, the GCA engaged in a first by submitting an amicus brief, along with the Sierra Club, the American Planning Association and the International Dark-Sky Association, in support of Scenic America’s challenge to the Federal Highway Administration’s interpretation that digital flashing signs were “customary use.” Again, in November 2016, the GCA, Scenic America, and Dark-Sky Association were joined by the Committee of 100 on the Federal City in appearing and testifying before the Washington, DC Council in opposition to a bill promoted by the Nationals Baseball Team owners and local developers to allow flashing digital billboards in one of the most prominent entry points to the nation’s capital. The GCA called on legislators to make Washington a “green” capital and a model for the nation.

 

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