[Durham INC] Recent letters to the editor & column supporting Durham's successful billboard ordinance
bwatu at yahoo.com
Mon Apr 12 19:30:05 EDT 2010
"Durham would be foolish to believe that electronic billboards are an innovative wave of the future. They are, rather, the last dying breath of a dinosaur industry."
Letter: Neighbors say no
Herald-Sun, 12 April 2010
Tuesday evening, the Planning Commission will consider a proposal by lobbyists for the billboard industry to relax Durham's ban on billboards. They want bigger, newer, and in some cases, brighter billboards along Durham's major traffic arteries.
To this Durham's neighborhoods say "Don't mess with the billboard ban!" Durham banned billboards 20 years ago to eliminate ugly sign clutter and arrest economic decline. The measure had broad citizen and business support. Since then, half of the giant signs have come down and those that remain are on borrowed time.
Now that our city's star is rising, the last thing we need to do is spoil it all with an entirely new billboard blight. The industry's proposal targets neighborhoods like East Durham, Crest Street, Duke Park, Northgate Park, Morehead Hill, Duke Homestead, Burch Avenue and Tuscaloosa-Lakewood. These are the places Durham's ordinary folks call home.
No citizen who lives near I-85, 15-501, or Chapel Hill Boulevard should have to put up with massive, brightly lit signs towering over his or her home. After hearing from representatives of the billboard industry and considering their proposal, the neighborhoods of Durham's InterNeighborhood Council voted resoundingly against changing Durham's strict billboard rules. Durham citizens agree 9 to 1, according to a recent independent poll. The Herald-Sun agrees. On Tuesday, the Planning Commission should also agree to protect Durham citizens and protect the billboard ban!
InterNeighborhood Council President
Letter: Great argument
Herald-Sun, 12 April 2010
In "City Must Keep Ban on Billboards" (April 8), Larry Holt and John Schelp make a persuasive case for opposing electronic billboards. [Copied below.]
Our existing ordinance has widespread support among Durham citizens who overwhelmingly do not want the dangerous distractions and blight of electronic billboards lining our streets.
Electronic billboards are sources of visual and virtual pollution and not a path toward reducing greenhouse gases; they are distractions to drivers; they will add nothing to Durham's economic base -- no jobs and no significant tax revenues; and should we ever remove them, we must compensate the owners.
Finally, while billboard industry officials tout electronic billboards as an advance, the reality is that billboards are the technology of the past century -- blaring blanket messages to a public that does not rely on them for information. Electronic media are transforming advertising through niche marketing. Today people depend on computers, smart phones, and Google for event schedules, entertainment venues, directions, and information about nonprofits, NGOs and government services.
Durham would be foolish to believe that electronic billboards are an innovative wave of the future. They are, rather, the last dying breath of a dinosaur industry. I urge Durham officials to respect the wishes of Durham citizens by supporting our current sign ordinance and representing our interests over those of the billboard industry.
Letter: Distracting drivers
Herald-Sun, 10 April 2010
Other cities are banning digital billboards and Durham is thinking about lifting its 25-year billboard ban?
As reported in USA Today on March 29, "more than a dozen cities around the nation have banned what some consider a growing external driving distraction: digital billboards." Other states and cities have placed a moratorium on digital billboards. Come on, Durham. We are a national leader in protecting our cityscape from unsightly, distracting billboards. Let's not give up our leadership edge. Don't lift the ban.
Letter: Billboards are dumb
Herald-Sun, 10 April 2010
Durham teachers and professors take tremendous pleasure and pride in educating young and older minds. Durham boasts about the high percentage of progressive thinkers we graduate via public and private undergraduate schools, North Carolina Central University, Durham Technical College, and Duke University. How is it possible that this same city is even entertaining a proposal to undo Durham's long term billboard ban? Durham has spent a fortune to revitalize its neighborhoods and downtown. Do you really think that new flashing billboards leading to its center are in keeping with the aesthetics we have all paid and worked hard to achieve? Come on! I hope that I won't suffer disappointment and disillusionment, and that I can continue to trust our elected officials to vote against the lifting of the billboard ban.
Wendi Gale Winfield
Letter: Keep billboard ban
Herald-Sun, 09 April 2010
I remember well my very first drive off of I-40 along 1-85 into Durham. Suddenly I found myself remarking how scenic my drive had suddenly become. I then realized there were nearly no billboards. That first impression was part of what led me to move here (and pay taxes for nearly 13 years now). The billboard industry pays low taxes and contributes visual clutter which makes driving less safe.
Changing the current billboard ban is not — in any way — helpful to our city. Please oppose it! Thank you.
Letter: Hideous billboards
Herald-Sun, 11 April 2010
I am appalled that our local governments would even entertain a proposal to undo Durham's billboard ban. Just when our city is becoming the state's showcase for revitalization, are we really going to consider mucking it up with ugly billboards? Billboard owners pay practically nothing in taxes. They have no employees here. In a poll done for the Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau last year, Durham citizens voted eight to one against lifting the billboard ban. The Durham of the new century should not look like the Durham of 1975. I hope our elected officials will have the good sense to vote against this bad idea.
Column: City must keep ban on billboards
By Larry Holt and John Schelp, Herald-Sun, 07 April 2010
There's no compelling reason to make all the non-conforming billboards around town permanent fixtures. As The Herald-Sun wrote ("Week's end," March 6), doing so would open a can of worms or spark a raft of lawsuits.
Durham's sign ordinance is working. We have many fewer billboards than 20 years ago. If we open the door to electronic billboards, we're never going to close it.
If we change the ordinance to allow electronic billboards, other businesses will demand that they're allowed bigger, brighter, taller signs in front of their facilities. If officials say no, we get sued.
Our hometown paper is right: "We hope the city and county will keep listening to the residents who have to live with, near and beneath the signs."
Recently, 273 citizens sent messages to local officials asking not to tinker with the sign ordinance. (Two people wrote for electronic billboards.) A recent Convention & Visitor's Bureau poll showed 9-to-1 support for Durham's successful billboard ban.
Voices in the community have clearly spoken in support of Durham's successful billboard ban. Why would officials want to vote against the community?
Seeing the opposition, the billboard industry is using the same tactics they've used elsewhere -- giving out free ad space for nonprofits to pressure officials. This means taking down billboards in East Durham for gun shows in Raleigh and putting up cute PSAs for stray dogs and cats.
Apparently, billboard industry lobbyists are now arguing that making their non-conforming billboards permanent fixtures would help Durham with revenues. Hardly. Industry pays tax on their property based on an appraisal that evaluates it as personal property. It's not evaluated as income-producing real estate -- what's called "income capitalization."
All of Fairway's billboards now produce about $2,600 in county tax revenue per year. Even if the change in the law increased billboard tax revenues by 10 times, it would still bring in less than 10 average single-family residences. So, switching to electronic billboards would not generate significant revenue.
If we allow electronic billboards, and local officials ever wanted to remove one for any reason, Durham taxpayers would have to compensate billboard companies for all future lost revenues. For a billboard, blinking more than 10,000 ads per day, that's a lot of money taxpayers would have to send to a company in Georgia.
Some have tried to argue that the new billboards will be better looking than the billboards the industry itself has allowed to deteriorate. Hardly. Few think that big, bright electronic billboards flashing ads all day will be an improvement.
Industry lobbyists told local media that their measure means billboards would be farther away from houses. Not true. Industry's measure allows industry to replace existing (non-conforming) billboards right where they are today (with the new ones rising on monopoles 50 ft into the sky).
Industry supporters have argued the measure will create more jobs. Huh? It might create another job for the guy in Raleigh switching electronic ads from his desktop. But the local crews who change billboard ads would have less work.
Then industry lobbyists tried to argue that we must have Silver Alerts among their billboard ads for cigar outlets and night clubs. Really?
We already have electronic Silver Alert signs on our highways in North Carolina. They're placed in a driver's line of vision -- right above the travel lanes. Durham's Reverse 911 now gives us a great tool to get the word out in an emergency -- in a much more comprehensive manner.
The billboard industry is apparently suggesting that drivers should look at three, five, maybe even seven ads -- way off to the side of the highway -- before a Silver Alert might appear on billboard screen.
We need to make our roads safer, not create driver distractions by placing electronic billboards flashing ads, brighter than daylight, on the side of our highways.
There's no compelling reason to overturn Durham's successful ban on billboards -- and many compelling reasons not to open ourselves to litigation.
To see video clips of electronic billboards, and letters of support from folks in the Durham community, visit supportdurhambillboardban.com.
Industry insists that electronic billboards are not distractions for drivers. If that's really true, why are they spending so much money on lawyers and lobbyists to get them?
John Schelp is president of the Old West Durham Neighborhood Association and Larry Holt is a Durham resident and longtime advocate for low-impact growth.
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