Newly Approved NC Billboard Preservation Bill Met with Criticism

July 31st, 2019

The North Carolina state Senate has recently approved a House bill that will change the rules for relocating billboards along state highways. Unfortunately, there has been widespread disagreement regarding the bill’s impact.

According to supporters of House Bill 645, who include the N.C. Outdoor Advertising Association, the bill simply allows for billboard companies to preserve and relocate their billboard to legally suitable property within two miles, when the underlying property upon which it sits is taken through eminent domain or the landowner decides he or she no longer wants the sign where it is.

Restrictions Cause Reduction in Billboards

Due to previous restrictions surrounding the relocation of billboards, the industry has lost about 1,000 billboards throughout the state. According to the Executive Director of the Outdoor Advertising Association, T.J. Bugbee, his members have only about 7,500 billboards remaining. Bugbee says that he is in no way trying to increase the number of billboards within the state, only preserve the present number. “We’re just asking to maintain the inventory that we have.”

Providing Additional Privileges?

However, opponents of the bill see it differently. They believe that the bill would give billboard companies more privileges concerning the billboards to be relocated. They say this would include raising the height of the billboard to 50 feet, cutting trees that block its view, and converting standard billboards to electronic ones. According to the group, Scenic North Carolina, the bill would allow for at least 5,000 billboards to be raised higher and converted to digital – regardless of local ordinances. The group’s President, Dale McKeel, explained that some communities would prefer to do without these bright, digital, displays.

In response, Bugbee argues that the new bill does not change anything from the 2013 law that allows for the “modernization” of existing signs though it remains unclear if this includes existing billboards being converted to digital. “We want to have a debate about digital in the future, but not in this bill,” he said.

Undermining Local Government Control

Sen. Mike Woodard from Durham, says, “[His] fundamental problem with the bill is that it undermines local control.” He maintains that local government should be able to have a say. His two attempts at amending the bill both failed.

Since being introduced in April, the bill has already been amended several times. It has been said that the bill’s impact has yet to be determined. In the bill’s original version, the General Assembly recognized outdoor advertising as an important type of communication within the public’s interest. However, “the needs of the outdoor advertisers must be balanced against the beautification of the State.”

Henson Fuerst Attorneys regularly represent property owners who have billboards on property that will be displaced by eminent domain and fight for what serves the residents of North Carolina best. To learn more about your rights pertaining to eminent domain or land condemnation, or to schedule a free consultation, call us at 919-781-1107.