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Osseo officials catching NIMBY flak for plan to erect city-owned billboard

In winter, it's not the cold, but the wind. In Osseo, it's not the sound wall. It's a proposed digital billboard that's a dagger for some residents.

In winter, it's not the cold, but the wind. In Osseo, it's not the sound wall. It's a proposed digital billboard that's a dagger for some residents.

Highway 169 flanks Osseo's east side. About 40,000 vehicles travel along the north-south roadway daily. Officials of the small city, population 2,430, are angling to make some extra cash on that location, location, location. 

The city has already rezoned several properties along the highway to allow for the construction of digital billboards and cell towers. Officials have proposed construction of the first digital billboard. The two screens would soar 65 feet high with a 47-foot wingspan, and would be leased to a private company. Riley Grams, Osseo's city administrator, has estimated $1.1 million in revenues over the duration of the 15-year lease, which will help keep property taxes low. 

Repeated messages left for Grams went unreturned, but earlier this week he told KSTP-TV: "Ultimately, the city is looking at this project as a creative way to gain more revenue for the city. We think this is a good way to keep the tax burden low without sacrificing the level of city services our residents have come to expect."

Some residents claim that argument's bunk. Seventy-five have signed a petition opposing the billboard. The light would be a quality of life violation and has the potential to drag down property values, they argue. They also point to the city's checkbook, which shows Osseo's fiscal health is enviable.

But don't take their word for it. Listen to what Grams had to say in December when the city admin told the Osseo City Council: "The 2016 city budget shows a fully balanced budget.… [The] city’s tax rate… actually decreased from 2015 to 2016.” 

The city council will vote on the billboard proposal March 14.