Comments due today on proposed state rule to loosen regulations on digital billboards

Image: Scenic NC

North Carolina environmental advocacy groups are calling on concerned groups and individuals to weigh in by today’s deadline in opposition to a proposal from the state Department of Transportation to loosen billboard regulations.

The proposal would override local ordinances and allow billboards with a state permit to be converted to digital and raised to 50 feet in height, even if such changes are not allowed by the applicable city or county ordinance.

In a letter opposing the proposal, the state chapter of the Sierra Club put it this way:

“Billboards are ads that all drivers are forced to see, whether they want to read or not. Digital billboards are like giant television screens, distracting to drivers, a nuisance to residents, and en eyesore damaging to the scenic beauty of North Carolina.”

The letter goes on to explain why: a) the proposed rule also violates the stated legislative intent that was expressed by state lawmakers in adopting the underlying statute, and b) an alternative scheme advanced by DOT last March that would recognize local government ordinances and limit the changes that could be made to an existing boards.

A letter from the Southern Environmental Law Center expressed similar concerns:

“The proposed rules would disregard the wishes of local governments as expressed in applicable city or county ordinances, instead allowing a billboard with a state permit to be converted to digital and raised to 50 feet in height. Many local authorities have more stringent regulations than the State regarding outdoor advertising—the reason for which is often rooted in public safety. Studies show that digital billboards distract drivers, causing a significantly greater impairment to driving performance than static billboards. These giant flashing screens are especially dangerous to young drivers who may be easily distracted, and in areas with greater traffic safety challenges.”

Comments are due today (March 5), can reference the Sierra Club and SELC comments and can be sent via email to [email protected].

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