Polk approves resolution opposing HB 581 for billboards

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, June 15, 2017

COLUMBUS – The Polk County Board of Commissioners is sending state legislators a resolution opposing a current bill before the N.C. House of Representatives.

House Bill 581 is currently being considered regulating billboards.

The Polk County Board of Commissioners met June 5 and discussed the bill and its possible impact on local governments and the N.C. Department of Transportation (DOT). The main impacts would be that local governments could lose control over the state allowing billboards that are illuminated and increased costs for local governments and the DOT for relocating billboards during construction projects.

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Polk County currently has regulations banning billboards throughout the county, including I-26 and U.S. 74. Some billboards were grandfathered prior to the county’s ban.

Commissioner Ray Gasperson said he is very supportive of opposing the bill. He said he’s heard stories from the 1990s when commissioners passed the ordinance regulating billboards in Polk County and heard it was very contentious. Gasperson said from what he understands commissioners then really went to bat with some commissioners not winning the next election.

“There was some real effort and risk at that time,” Gasperson said.

County attorney Jana Berg said the county’s ordinance prohibits billboards, but some were grandfathered. She said any billboards that were grandfathered in, if they need to be relocated, the county would have to pay for that relocation if the bill passes. She also said if the bill passes, it’s possible the grandfathered billboards in the county could be allowed to be illuminated.

The bill was still in committee in the N.C. House during the county’s last meeting.

The senate has not yet considered the bill.

Following is the resolution the county approved earlier this month opposing HB 581:

WHEREAS, Polk County wishes to regulate signs placed for public observance within its jurisdictional boundaries and provide an improved environmental setting and community appearance by regulating existing billboards along our scenic highways; and

WHEREAS, preserving the scenic and aesthetic character of Polk County in order to protect and promote the development of the tourist industry and to provide for the protection of the health, welfare, and quality of life for residents and visitors is a County goal; and

WHEREAS, House Bill 581 will eliminate some of the local control by allowing existing billboards on the interstate and other major highways to be upgraded to digital billboards; and

WHEREAS, to ensure the safety of motorists on public roads in Polk County, the prevention of the distracting influence of digital billboards throughout the County should be maintained; and

WHEREAS, House Bill 581 would force the North Carolina Department of Transportation and local governments to pay billboard companies more than what is currently required to remove existing signs for public works projects; and

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, the Polk County Board of Commissioners desire to protect the rural atmosphere and scenic highways, and the safety of traveling motorist opposes the passing of House Bill 581.