Scenic NC: State Voters Oppose Bill Overriding Local Rules to Benefit Billboard Industry

Published Monday, April 13, 2015 at 4:19 pm

A strong majority of North Carolina voters oppose key provisions of SB320, a bill that would force the North Carolina Department of Transportation to issue permits for billboards even if they violate local zoning and appearance laws, according to a new poll.

The poll shows 68% of North Carolina voters surveyed oppose the provision overriding local rules. Opposition to this key provision of SB320 is bipartisan, with 73% of Democrats and 61% of Republicans surveyed against it. Independents also opposed key provisions of the bill by margins as high as nearly six to one.

Sixty percent of voters surveyed said Gov. Pat McCrory should veto SB320 if the General Assembly passes it. Respondents also opposed the bill’s provisions allowing billboards to be moved and converted to digital billboards and increasing the amount of money NC DOT will have to pay to the owners of billboards that are condemned to permit highway expansion.

“By a margin of more than four to one, North Carolinians are overwhelmingly opposed to this bill,” said Reyn Bowman, President of Scenic North Carolina, a non-profit group concerned about North Carolina’s scenic beauty.

“Members of the General Assembly are faced with needing massive amounts of transportation dollars to fix our highways and roads,” Bowman said, “And this bill, if it passes, means the costs which NCDOT will have to pay billboard owners if they need to remove a billboard to improve or widen a road will skyrocket,” he added.

Sen. Harry Brown (R-6), Sen. Bill Rabon (R-8), and Sen. Jeff Tarte (R-41) introduced SB320 on March 17. On March 18, the NC Senate referred the bill to the Commerce Committee, where it currently sits. Rep. Mike Hager of Rutherford County sponsored the companion bill, HB304.

Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling conducted the survey on April 6 and April 7 with a statistically generalizable sample of North Carolina voters. Scenic North Carolina, a statewide nonprofit, commissioned the poll.

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