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Indianapolis removes illegal benches after concerns from community leaders

Benches are in city right of way, attract trash
Posted at 7:41 PM, Jan 29, 2018

INDIANAPOLIS --  Indianapolis' Department of Business and Neighborhood Services, formerly known as code enforcement, removed 52 benches Monday following an investigation from Scripps station WRTV in Indianapolis about illegal advertising benches popping up across the city.

A contractor crew got rid of the benches after the city found 116 in violation.

“The number one issue is safety,” said Brandi Pahl, Chief Communications Officer, City of Indianapolis Department of Business & Neighborhood Services. “A lot of them are really close to the streets, and then there's the trash angle. People just dump their trash and no one really cleans it up."

Pahl said the city made an effort to contact the bench owners and gave them an opportunity to remove them.

If the city could not reach the owner or the owner did not comply, a vendor was assigned to remove the illegal bench.

Only one bench was voluntarily removed and the city gave extensions to two companies that own 30 benches, said Pahl.

"They will be not be cited, because city code does not really allow for citations for this,” said Pahl. “But, we have talked with our legal department and we working on ways if they don't comply to remedy it."

Wayne Township Trustee Andy Harris and city-county councilor Janice McHenry expressed concerns in October about the billboard benches, because they are in the city’s right of way without a permit yet the city does not collect any revenue from it.

“Many residents and business owners are relieved to see action being taken,” said Trustee Harris. “I want to thank those involved who made this happen. This is an issue that has frustrated our community for years with the trash left behind at these benches.”

Harris and other community leaders have complained for years about the illegal benches.

“What took so long was the process of finding out who owns the benches and what we can do legally within the city code to get these removed," said Pahl.

Of course, many people want a place to sit when they’re waiting for the bus.

A local ordinance allows legal advertising at some bus stops, according to Bryan Luellen, IndyGo VP Public Affairs and Communications.
“Through a contract between IndyGo and fairway outdoor, advertising can be purchased legally,” said Luellen. “As part of our transit expansion we will be adding additional benches and shelters at locations around the city. All our investments are required to be ADA accessible and connected by sidewalk and permitted through Business and Neighborhood Services.” 

WRTV reached out to some of the phone numbers listed on the signs, including Mini Billboards, however we did not receive a response.