Wednesday, June 23, 2004

N.C. Billboard Industry Relief Act of 2004

A notoriously bad pro-billboard industry bill passed a N.C. Senate committee yesterday and will now go before the full Senate for approval. It would impose an impossible burden on municipalities that are trying to remove existing billboards from certain of its neighborhoods.

The current system now in place (which allowed Boone, for example, to remove & ban billboards years ago) allows local governments to "compensate" owners of those large signs by letting them keep them up for a few years before taking them down. This form of compensation (which doesn't involve actual tax dollars paid out) is called "amortization" and is based on the legal principal that a roadway sign is personal property and not real estate; therefore, ordering it down does not force a company to give up its private property but only move it somewhere else.

The new bill would force munipalities to pay off the billboard industry as much as five times the net annual income derived from any billboard. In the case of a large, double-sided sign, that could come to as much as $480,000. Clearly, this bill would end certain city beautification or sign regulation initiatives (and thank God Boone completed its ban of billboards years ago, before the industry bought itself a passle of state Senators to do its bidding).

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