DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – A proposal by Detroit to erect two electronic billboards on either side of the entrance to Belle Isle as part of an emergency notification system is drawing criticism.

The idea for the signs near the island park has been in the works since at least 2009, according to a report by The Detroit Free Press. But, the plan recently drew attention after the Board of Zoning Appeals put the city’s request for approval on the docket for an upcoming meeting.

The signs could be about 20 feet tall by 45 feet wide. They would rise to about 49 feet tall — about the height of a five-story building. Officials say the two electronic signs would be paid for with advertising on up to 25 percent of the surface area.

Sarah Earley, chairwoman of the nonprofit Belle Isle Conservancy, said the organization opposes the signs.

“They are inconsistent with a park that’s on the National Register of Historic Places,” Earley told the Free Press. “I just think they’re an eyesore for this neighborhood, not just for the park but for Jefferson Avenue, the Villages, everything there.”

Daryl Lundy, director of Detroit’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said the signs would be part of an emergency notification system in event of a natural disaster or terrorist attack.

“We’re doing this initiative because we have so many special events here in the city and the numbers that we’re dealing with, fireworks for example, a quarter million people just in Hart Plaza,” said Lundy. “When they’re out there, and a tornado warning comes through, how do we warn those individuals?”

Lundy said the site near the entrance to Belle Isle was chosen as the site most likely to reach the greatest number of citizens who otherwise might not hear or see an emergency message.

TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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