HB 74 A Tragic Blow To Roadside Beauty
Scenic NC Disappointed By McCrory’s Signing
Scenic NC has been championing scenic preservation and the rights of all North Carolinians to enjoy our beautiful natural resources. Among the threats to this beauty were a number of provisions tucked into a hodgepodge bill passed in the final days of The North Carolina General Assembly. While the bill was labeled regulatory reform, it was filled with special interest giveaways to North Carolina’s billboard industry.
While the people of North Carolina pay serious money to maintain the beautiful roads of our state, they are giving a large corporate subsidy to billboard companies. Subsidizing ad sales for publicly-traded corporations makes little sense when North Carolina has a backlog of requests to maintain the roads that generate the ad revenue.
Polls show that 8-in-10 North Carolinians oppose cutting trees for billboards, including nearly 7-in-10 Republicans.
North Carolina’s General Assembly has caved to pressure from the billboard lobby once again. For two legislative sessions in a row, the billboard industry has asked for favors from Jones Street and gotten them. This year, the favors are tucked into the provisions of HB 74, a bill containing two (2) provisions which attempt to make a giveaway of state resources to the billboard industry permanent.
Governor McCrory just signed that bill into law rather than vetoing a bad bill that contradicted views expressed when he campaigned.
As Mayor of Charlotte, Pat McCrory took a leadership role defending the rights of communities to protect them from billboard blight. As candidate for governor, McCrory took the General Assembly to task for enacting legislation enabling cutting of public trees. Now, Governor McCrory had an opportunity to veto a bad bill that senselessly handcuffs local governments…and chose not to.
In 1965, the U.S. Congress enacted The Highway Beautification Act with the intent of restricting the growth of billboards and junkyards along our nation’s public highways. The Act restricts billboards to areas where they were allowed by local or state zoning laws. States are required to demonstrate that they have effectively controlled billboards under the Act or risk losing 10 percent of their federal highway appropriations.
Governor McCrory’s endorsement of HB 74 gives billboard companies the right to completely rebuild aging billboards, including those in communities where they are banned with new steel structures, even in areas that are not zoned for billboards. This creates a permanent monopoly for the holders of current permits. The price for this privilege is too low to be believed.
Last session, our legislature passed a bill to permit the billboard advertising companies to clear cut the right-of-way for 425 feet at each sign face, and 850 feet for a two-sided billboard. For this additional privilege, the billboard advertising company pays a whopping $200, less than the cost of administering the program.
“We had called upon Governor McCrory to oppose efforts by billboard companies to loosen rules on billboards this session,” said Reyn Bowman. “This new law is a complete giveaway of the state’s resources and will encourage billboard blight.”
“Governor McCrory has let us all down. Despite stating on the campaign trail that he would have vetoed the bad billboard bill from last session, he signed this extension of that bill to make the problem permanent,” added Bowman. Scenic NC will now take up the matter with the federal government.
Scenic NC has called upon The United States Department of Transportation to audit North Carolina as a result of the actions taken by The North Carolina General Assembly last session and this bill. While Governor McCrory issued an Executive Order on August 23, 2013 mandating that The North Carolina Department of Transportation consult with local governments, this action does not put North Carolina’s billboard control program back into compliance with The Highway Beautification Act of 1965.