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December 12, 2018
Based on the reaction to the renovated billboard located on Hwy 49 and Ruckus Road, at the entrance to Town Center, the Town wanted to provided residents with information on the background of when and how the billboard was approved.
The billboard was first constructed when the Town Center area first developed, dating back to 2004. When the billboard was constructed, the Town did not have a Planning Department or Sign Ordinance to oversee the type/size/location of signage throughout Town. The Town has made several attempts over the years to get the billboard owner to improve the sign, due to the billboard only being about six feet off the ground and beginning to deteriorate, which created a safety concern for pedestrians using the sidewalk underneath the billboard.
In 2013, the North Carolina General Assembly enacted new legislation that severely limited local governments from regulating or prohibiting billboard signage. Despite the Town’s current ordinances and signage regulations, these newly enacted laws have reduced our ability to regulate billboard signage in our jurisdiction.
In 2016, the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) filed a lawsuit against the billboard owner for not having a valid permit for the billboard on Hwy 49. After a lengthy litigation process, the NCDOT and billboard owner reached a settlement that would allow the billboard owner to keep the billboard in place and modernize the sign (replace it).
Based on the new provisions in the law and the settlement reached by the NCDOT with the billboard owner, the Town was limited to controlling the height of the billboard and ensuring that the billboard was the same size as the previous billboard (square footage of advertisement area). While the new billboard looks significantly larger than the previous billboard, the advertising square footage remains the same as the previous billboard, but the utilization of a mono-pole mounted billboard with a more squared shape gives the appearance that the billboard is larger (the previous billboard was a long, horizontal rectangle with a much lower height). The Town is also restricted from regulating the content placed on the billboard, unless that content violates our current Sign Ordinance.
We hope that this information provides some insight for residents to consider, as we were very limited in our opportunities to affect the outcome of this billboard renovation. If anyone has any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our Planning Department at 704-455-0738.