Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Billboard industry seeks to end local control in North Carolina

Just as South Dakota is looking to give control over sign regulation to local communities, the billboard industry in North Carolina is trying to end local regulation of signs in that state.

The move comes just months after residents of Durham, NC fought off an attempt by Fairway Outdoor Advertising to get the city to open up its regulations and allow them to convert some static billboards to digital.  Citizens, who worked hard to craft regulations that would eventually see Durham billboard-free, rose up en masse to protest the proposal.  A unanimous city council vetoed the proposal.

"The big concern is who decides about community appearance and whether billboards are sited in a community, and how visible they are," said Ben Hitchings, the planning director in Morrisville and past legislative chair of the N.C. Chapter of the American Planning Association.  "It's a key question of local control: Will communities still be allowed to control the appearance of their own community, or will that be something dictated [to them], in this case by the billboard industry?"

The only entity that appears opposed to local control is the powerful billboard industry, which understands that when given a voice, communities quite naturally often prefer beauty over blight. 

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