Thanks to Dependable Erection‘s Barry Ragin for filing this dispatch for the Indy on last night’s INC vote on the billboard issue:

Last night’s Inter-Neighborhood Council vote on two competing resolutions

regarding billboards in Durham was something of an anti-climax. The

first resolution urges city and county planners to make no changes to

the current Unified Development Ordinance, under which all billboards

are non-conforming uses which can only be maintained, not upgraded. A

number of delegates spoke in support of this resolution, but it was Tom

Miller of Watts Hospital-Hillandale who made the point that any change

to the ordinance has the effect of making billboards legal and

conforming uses under code, thereby making them permanent parts of the

landscape. As non-conforming uses, billboards can not be replaced, for

example, if they are destroyed by an act of God, or if they are taken by

a highway widening project. Miller pointed out that since Durham banned

billboards in 1984, the billboard population has dropped from a little

over 200, to a little less than 100, and that another dozen or so

billboards are scheduled to come down over the next few years.

This resolution passed overwhelmingly, with one negative vote, and

several abstentions.

The competing resolution, which has been presented as the “digital

billboard” proposal, was defeated by a similar margin garnering two

positive votes. Arguments in favor of digital billboards rested mainly

on their ability to inform travelers of destinations and events in

downtown Durham, and their use to disseminate Amber and Silver Alert

information. It was pointed out that both city and county attorneys have

expressed the opinion that requiring digital billboards to display any

form of PSA as a matter of statute would be unconstitutional.

The most interesting vote, from my perspective, came from the Rockwood

Neighborhood. As the Indy noted in its Triangulator blog, Patrick Byker,

an attorney for K&L Gates, which counts Fairway Outdoor Advertising

among its clients, basically appointed himself as Rockwood’s delegate to

the INC last month by paying the $25 annual dues. Rockwood was one of

the neighborhoods abstaining from the vote. It would be interesting to

see the discussion that may have taken place on Rockwood’s email list

about what position their neighborhood would take during tonight’s vote.