NC Legislation Through An Operator’s Eyes – And Then A Surprise Defeat

Insider had a chance to talk with Grey Vick, owner of Grey Outdoor, based in Wilmington North Carolina about the current North Carolina legislation under consideration.  Here are some thoughts on legislation from the perspective of an owner/operator.

House Bill 581 has been receiving a lot of media attention.  What do you see as the main issues surrounding the legislation?

The main issue is that local municipalities and counties may lose more control of their decision making about outdoor advertising within their communities.  The main point being any sign with a ncdot permit can be upgraded to a digital given proper spacing requirements etc but local laws cannot prevent the upgrade. Some sign owners in NC don’t seem as thrilled because they have worked really hard to obtain new permits and this would allow the bigger companies to essentially do whatever they want throughout the state.

Does the legislation impact all the billboards in North Carolina?

It only affects billboards on highways that have a valid ncdot permit issued. Some other areas may not be included in the legislation.

Currently, how much flexibility do you have to perform major maintenance, upgrade or relocate signs?

They passed earlier legislation in NC that allows any sign with a ncdot permit to be upgraded from a multi pole sign to a monopole without local approval. Relocation isn’t allowed but it can be replaced in the same location.

Earlier versions of the legislation included changes in cutting zones for vegetation.  Is that still a part of proposed legislation?

I believe it keeps the vegetation window the same size it just allows a vegetation permit to be issued after the sign has been erected for one year vs the existing two year window currently. It allows cutting and replanting in the medians of highways and interstates and also allows for relocation of prior protected red buds and dogwood trees within the selective vegetation window. 

I understand that the definition of just compensation is a part of the bill? How is it impacted?

Not sure how it changes from the existing requirements but it requires the payment of monetary compensation for the removal of any outdoor advertising unless the the owner and municipality agree to a relocation of the sign. It also adds several factors in determining the monetary value including the income generated by the sign so it would significantly increase the value of the just compensation from what I can tell. It seems as if the bill allows any sign with a Permit to be relocated anywhere within a jurisdiction even if the jurisdiction doesn’t allow the relocation. This is true even if there is existing right or way vegetation at the site to be moved to. It allows a selective vegetation permit for the new site.

Does the bill take away any local authority from cities or counties on zoning or permitting decisions?

Yes for existing signs to be relocated or upgraded. For new permits they would still have the first line of defense to issue a new permit for a new site unless it is relocated.

As we were going to post – WRAL.com published that North Carolina House defeated HR Bill 581 by a 49-66 vote on Tuesday. The vote surprised the House Speaker, Tim Moore, who had ensured opponents that a thorough debate would be held before the final vote.

Some comments from other members of the house include:

  • Rep. Jay Adams, R-Catawba, called the “no new billboards” promise a hollow one, noting the bill would allow companies to put replacement billboards up in new locations.
  •  “This is a corporate welfare bill,” said Rep.Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, arguing that the large-scale owners who can afford to replace older billboards would eventually buy out the smaller operators and take over their permitted inventory of signs.
  • Rep. Ted Davis, R-New Hanover, objected to allowing digital signs to replace older billboards, saying it would create “clutter” that could diminish the appeal of some communities.

We got ahold of Grey Vick who’s final comment was:

  •  “I heard they didn’t think it would go through and I guess it wouldn’t. It would have helped me some but not sure it made sense for the local towns.”

 

 


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