by Bob Geary
As one Democratic legislator said to me recently, another day, another outrage from the Republicans in control of the General Assembly. This time it's a bill — Senate Bill 183 — written for (and no doubt by) the billboard industry. The idea is to override local sign ordinances that, in Raleigh anyway (and Durham too), have stopped the proliferation of visual billboard blight.
SB-183's chief sponsor is Sen. Harry Brown, a Jacksonville Republican who is the Senate Majority Leader. In other words, this is not some inconsequential bill. (Among the co-sponsors: Sen. Clark Jenkins, D-Edgecombe, who's been the Democrats' top guy on highway bills for years.)
Some folks in Raleigh have set up a No on SB 183 website. City Councilor Thomas Crowder is also sounding the alarm in messages to his constituents.
(Update: Naturally, there is also a Facebook group.)
I am greatly saddened to have learned today that a bill has been introduced in the NC Senate to allow billboards (including electronic digital billboards) in Raleigh again after decades of having some of the most beautiful urban highways and state maintained thoroughfares in the U.S. To make matters even worse the bill will allow the decimation of our tree lined beltline and other road buffers in order to display them.
I ask for your immediate help by letting the NC Legislature understand that trampling over the quality of life rights of local citizens and municipalities for the sole benefit of the billboard industry is reaching way too far. I ask that you and your neighbors write the entire Wake County Delegation requesting they fight hard to kill this legislation on your behalf and write Governor Purdue asking her to VETO this bill, if it is in fact passed by the Legislature. Also, please write “Letters To The Editor” at the News and Observer letting the entire State Legislature know of your outrage in this bill and your adamant support for keeping our scenic view-sheds “green” and pristine. We do not want our roads and highways to emulate other states. Let’s Keep Raleigh and North Carolina Beautiful!
Here are some highlights outlined by the North Carolina American Planning Association of what the bill will allow:
1) Allow digital and tri-vision billboards every 1,500 feet on each side of any interstate or primary highway system route under certain conditions (such as that the copy stays fixed for at least 8 seconds).
2) Allow by right conversion of any existing regular billboards to digital billboards, even if they are a locally nonconforming use.
3) Increase cut zone distance from 250' to 400'.
4) Override local tree cutting ordinances on state/federal roads.
The bill would also provide some tree replanting money.
To view the full bill language, visit
Companion legislation in the House is expected shortly. Both pieces of legislation could move quickly.
Please speak up now and loudly! Here are e-mail addresses for the Governor, Wake Delegation, and The News and Observer. Please ask your friends throughout the City, Triangle and State to do the same!
For the Durham angle, see this story: