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Volunteers line up to rip down city billboards


Citizens opposed to the proliferation of billboards in the inner city have appealed to City Hall and the courts, but yesterday they used ropes and a ladder to rid the city of three that graced the side of a building in West Baltimore.

About 50 people cheered as neighborhood volunteers lowered the billboards, which touted a liquor store, a cigarette brand and the benefits of recycling.

Dorothy Jones, owner of the three-story building at George Street and Fremont Avenue, said she never signed a contract with Boisclair Advertising Inc., the firm she said owns the billboards and affixed them to the side of her building years ago.

And while Mrs. Jones said she has never been paid for the billboards, she insisted she would never agree to any price to keep them there. "They're bad for the community and the neighborhood," said Mrs. Jones, who lives in Severna Park.

The effort was spearheaded by the Coalition for Beautiful Neighborhoods -- 30 community and religious groups waging a legal battle to force the removal of hundreds of so-called "junior billboards" owned by Boisclair and mostly mounted on the sides of inner-city buildings. The groups say they deface neighborhoods and push liquor and cigarettes on low-income residents.

A Circuit Court judge ordered the billboards down, ruling in October that they violated a city zoning ordinance. But the Court of Special Appeals said they could remain up pending Boisclair's appeal.

Yesterday, leaders tried a different approach.

"This is a community working with businesses and property owners in their own neighborhoods to resolve the problem," said Hathaway Ferebee, who heads the Citizens Planning and Housing Association, one of the groups in the coalition.

Boisclair officials could not be reached for comment.

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