Austin to assess aerial advertising restrictions

Forms of aerial advertising, which includes banner planes, are facing closer scrutiny by the city of Austin after Austin City Council looked to possibly impose restrictions on the form of advertising at a June 27 meeting.

"We just want some relief from these banner plane that fly one after the other, primarily over ACL Fest," said Zilker neighborhood resident David King. "But with more and more events coming to Zilker Park and right in that area, the Zilker neighborhood does get bombarded ... with banner planes training over the neighborhood."

Council approved the city manager to determine if there are any local, state or federal barriers to the city enacting potential restrictions. If there are no such barriers, the council will have a draft ordinance outlining possible restrictions by Aug. 29.

Don Arsenault, owner and operator of Aerial Advertisers, which has been in business for about 37 years, said he believes complaints about aerial advertising are a fallout from Austin's big events and festivals.

"So in the past 35 years, I've received no complaints, even from [the Zilker Neighborhood Association]. But in the past 18 months, I've received several complaints, so you have to look at what's different here," Arsenault said. "As far as I can tell, the difference is Formula One."

Arsenault said that when he flies, he tries to keep the plane over traffic except when he has a banner saying "will you marry me?" or "happy birthday."

Arsenault said he already takes measures to ensure that his business has the smallest effect on neighborhoods as possible, and is afraid that a potential ban or restrictions on aerial advertising would put him out of business.

Mayor Lee Leffingwell said he was surprised that the resolution was even being considered by council because the Federal Aviation Administration regulates air space

"It's just baffling to me that there are several documented cases on the record where people have tried to do this and the federal government has said 'you can't do it,'" he said. "This is federal air space governed by federal law."

King said though he appreciates the consideration Arsenault gives to neighborhoods in his business, he would still like to look at solutions to relieve some of the inconveniences of multiple planes passing over the neighborhood during events and festivals.

"It's not just a minor nuisance a couple of times a day. It's from 10 o'clock [in the morning] to 9 o'clock at night," he said. "It's on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and I can't even be in my backyard at those times to have a normal conversation."