Reno Planning Commission Meets on Billboard Proposal

The City of Reno Nevada, Planning Commission, met on August 2nd to consider new language from city staff as directed by the City Council on off-premises billboards. Insider viewed the video of the Planning Commission meeting.  For those who are interested, the video can be found here.  The testimony related to the billboards begins at the 33rd minute of the meeting.

Some historical background on Reno and their billboard ordinance.

  • In November 2000, The total number of off-premises billboards were capped in Reno as a result of a voters’ initiative.  That number has increased some since that time through annexations, expanding out the city limits. Also, a banking system was put in place, allowing operators to “bank credits” for signs that were required to be removed so that they could be relocated to another conforming site.
  • In October 2012, the City Council passed an update to their sign ordinance allowing for digital billboards.  At the same time the ordinance was passed, and with the expectation of a court challenge, a moratorium was place on the construction of any digital billboards in the city limits. There currently are two ongoing lawsuits related to the ordinance. The city effectively shut down the banking system for billboards with the moratorium.

In 2016, the City Council asked city staff to craft language that would remove the wording in the city sign ordinance that allowed for digital billboards.  Also, the council was asked to draft language closing the banking system for billboards, but still allowing most, but not all, of the banking credits for 82 active banked receipts.

The proposal from staff to the Planning Commission was that they approve the proposed language for the new ordinance as it relates to Planning Commission guidelines and objectives and move it on to the City Council for final evaluation.

Primarily, three groups were on hand to provide testimony:

  • Scenic Nevada who came prepared with an updated opinion poll they had conducted in April indicating that the vast majority of voters did not want digital signs.
  • The billboard industry, with most testimony from Lamar, asking for communication and cooperation between the city and billboard operators to craft effective ordinance language meeting the needs of both groups.
  • The Reno/Sparks Chamber of Commerce was well represented and expressed how their membership feels that billboards are a viable and important medium for them to promote their businesses.  They related that there are over 200 small businesses currently using billboards as an advertising medium in Reno.  It was the Chamber that focused on finding a reasonable approach to modernizing billboards in the city and stressed the public safety opportunities for the city that digital boards can provide.

Ultimately, the request of the Planning Commission was very narrow in scope and they approved the draft language on that basis.  The greater issue will be dealt with in upcoming City Council meetings.

Insider’s take: Amazing that a city could, in the same instant, approve digital billboards in an ordinance revision and then shut it all down with a moratorium, going on now for 5 years.  We’ll keep an eye on further events and see how the City moves to resolve the issue.

 


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