by Lisa Sorg
We're perusing public records and other notices today regarding the controversy over an proposed amendment to allow electronic billboards in Durham.
First, here is the current billboard ordinance pulled from Durham's Unified Development Ordinance. It's 26 pages long; page 7 deals with animated and electronic signs: billboardordinance
Secondly, word is that law firm K&L Gates and their client Fairway have been pushing the nonprofit angle, trying to wrangle public and private support for the amendment if some nonprofs get free billboard time.
Downtown Durham Inc, a nonprofit group devoted to boosting the city's center, received a freebie on U.S. 70; its board is scheduled to vote whether to endorse the proposed change Jan. 22.
And a trip back through time shows Fairway has been softening the ground, giving the county some free ad space: The Durham County Commissioners' minutes for April 26, 2006 has the line item: Recognize Fairway Advertising for Donating Billboards for Truancy Hotline. The minutes read: "Fairway Advertising has played an invaluable role in helping to get the word out about this new [Truancy Hotline] program. In addition to helping to design the ads for the billboard, Fairway has generously donated two billboards at gateway entrances to Durham County. A resolution has been prepared expressing appreciation for Fairway’s efforts."
On a smaller note, the Durham City Attorney's office needed assistance looking into digital billboard ordinances, as it posted a notice on the UNC Law School pro bono site asking for a second- or third-level law student to investigate other cities' laws.
Look no further than Cary, which also fought with Fairway over the town's billboard ordinance, fining the company more than $50,000 in 2007, according to WRAL.com
The Herald-Sun reported yesterday (registration required) that Fairway's parent company, Morris Communications doled out campaign contributions to several Durham City Council members.
Bull City Rising was on top of the issue early on with good coverage of the debate at last month's Inter neighborhood Council meeting and about Fairway's contributions to the pro-meals tax effort last fall.