BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for August 5, 2010
Indy: 751 South developer pledges to meet Jordan Lake Rules among other proffers

Fairway seeks deferral of County Commissioner's billboard vote

Note: As this post was going to press, the Indy confirmed K&L Gates' request for a deferral.

K&L Gates has indicated that it will request a delay of the Board of County Commissioner's vote on Fairway Outdoor Advertising’s proposed billboard overlay district.  The deferral would move the Commissioners' vote on Fairway's proposal, which would allow replacement of up to one-fourth of existing signs with digital versions that change messages every eight seconds, to September 13th.

The BoCC vote is the long-awaited final chapter in the ongoing saga of Fairway's attempt to change Durham's off-premise sign ordinance.  As previously covered here at BCR, Fairway has been lobbying for over two years for a modification of Durham’s off-premise sign ordinance.  As currently written, the 1984 ordinance prevents modifications to billboards that cost more than 25% of their present value.  This limit prevents the upgrade of billboards to the new digital format, which would drastically increase Fairway’s revenue.

Debate over the billboards proposal has resulted in a strong outpouring of opposition to Fairway’s proposal.  During Monday’s City Council meeting, council members noted that they had received over 1,000 emails opposing Fairway’s proposal, with less than 10 emails in favor of digital billboards.  This was noted as one of the driving factors behind City Council’s unanimous vote against Fairway’s proposal.

The Board of County Commissioners was scheduled to vote on the same proposal next Monday, August 9.  A yes vote from the BoCC would allow Fairway to make their proposed switch to digital outside of city limits.  Opponents have been busy organizing an email campaign to the BoCC, with a heavy focus on the high cost of enforcement relative to the limited tax revenue of Fairway’s proposed upgrades.

Fairway’s requested deferral must be approved by a majority vote of the BoCC at its Monday meeting.  Steve Medlin, director of Durham's City/County Planning Department, stated by email that he has not been approached by Fairway about any changes to their proposal.  If proposed, future changes may need to be presented to the Durham's Planning Commission, depending upon their scope.


Kelly Jarrett

Hey Commissioners: Deny this request and move forward with the hearings and the vote as scheduled. Fairway Advertising & K&L Gates have had two years to convince us that we want their product--and they've failed. Durham citizens have spoken loud and clear: NO ELECTRONIC BILLBOARDS IN DURHAM. Let's have the BOCC vote on Monday as scheduled.

Write the commissioners and tell them to deny K&L Gates request for postponement and to listen to Durham voters and vote to support the current billboard ordinance. (commissioners@durhamcountync.gov)

Myers Sugg

It's nice that Mr. Byker feels compassion for the commissioners because they will be dealing with two controversial agenda items on Monday. The delay for another month is not warranted. This is a hollow request. Commissioners please move forward so this can be heard on Monday. Opponents like myself have lives to lead, and have already made plans to attend. We are not paid like K&L and their reps to attend meetings like this. We take precious time out of our personal lives to attend. It's grossly unfair to average citizens who have had this issue hanging over us for what, 2 years? Let's have it properly heard with an orderly debate, and let there be a vote.


Kelly Jarrett

From the INDY: "Byker said . . . 'The reason for the request is to relieve county commissioners of having to deal with two very contentious issues—changes to the billboard ordinance, and a rezoning case that would allow a controversial development—on the same night.'"

That odor wafting through the room? Well, if it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck . . . . . PLEASE, Byker. Don't insult our intelligence.

I'm with you Myers. This is clearly an attempt on their part to undermine citizen participation, exactly as you suspect.

Doug Roach

"...Steve Medlin, director of Durham's City/County Planning Department, stated by email that he has not been approached by Fairway about any changes to their proposal..."
So there is NO proposed change to the ordinance other than what has already been written by the Fairway people, rejected by the Planning Department, shot down in flames by the City Council and loudly and vociferously shouted down by the overwhelming majority of the citizens of Durham.
I can only suppose the real reason for the delay is to allow more time to deliver checks to the commissioners by Fairway lackeys K&L.
Just sayin'.

Jeff S

How about after you vote this down, you propose a new vote to start tearing their existing signs down?


You want pranks, Mr. Bowser, here's your pranks.

"The reason for the request is to relieve county commissioners of having to deal with two very contentious issues..."
-Patrick Byker

Who set up this crowded agenda on Aug. 9 anyway?

Mr. Byker and his cronies, the kings of the 11th hour shell game, that's who.

Let's review:
1) Byker pulls his slick deed of easement trick with NCDOT, pressuring lower level staff.
2) Senior DOT staff realizes it the department made a mistake and rescinds the easement.
3) As a result, the 751 protest petition valid is now valid.
4) Sensing defeat, K&L pressures Bowser and Page to pressure Lowell Siler to ignore the clear, definitive legality of the DOT ruling.
5) Siler can't find what Bowser and Page want him to find (since it doesn't exist!), forcing the BOCC to move the hearing to Aug. 9...in a literal midnight decision after a 5 hour meeting.
6) A week later, K&L gets spanked on the billboard issue by the City Council, including getting a stern lecture from their "go to" guy, Howard Clement.
7) The 1000 plus emails opposed to K&L builds the momentum as they head into the BOCC vote.
8) Needing time to regroup, devise some seemingly more palatable billboard proposal, and get the Dixie Gun Show billboards down...AFTER TWO YEARS OF PRANKS like sliming non-profits, the PACs, and some poor unassuming speakers at the Council meeting...K&L pressure Bowser and Page to pull the billboard request because of the full agenda they (K&L) created.

Please, Commissioner Howerton, put us out of our endless misery. Don't reward K&L for their pranks. Don't vote with Bowser and Page to put off the billboard vote. Vote it down so we can all move on.

Dan S.

So, here's something interesting that I noticed while driving around today: every billboard on Roxboro between Infinity/Latta and Club now features a local business. Where before, they were advertising Crown Royal and Malt Liquor, they now promote a local pizza joint, the rescue mission, the McDonald's down the road, etc.

I'm sure it's just coincidence, right, since I live a street over from the County Manager and down the street is a member of the Planning Commission.

Fairway's tactics are about as subtle as a Tiger Shark in a kiddie pool.

John Schelp

Billboard Companies Using Non-Profits to Help Kill Unfavorable Legislation

When a bill to put a little bite into California’s toothless billboard regulations came before the State Senate last week, the usual suspects—big billboard companies, chambers of commerce, construction interests—lined up to oppose it. But also signing on to help kill the bill were such organizations as the National Council of Jewish Women, the Minorities in Broadcasting Training Program, and the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association.

The bill, sponsored by L.A. City Attorney Carmen Trutanich and introduced by State Sen. Mark Leno, would have closed a loophole in state law that allows a company that gets caught illegally erecting or modifying a billboard to bring it into compliance and thus become eligible for monetary compensation if the billboard’s property is needed for highway widening or some other public works project. The change in the law would also have provided, for the first time, a deterrent to companies illegally erecting or modifying billboards by levying fines and requiring disgorgement of revenue unlawfully earned.

So why would non-profit groups representing genuine social interests oppose a change in state law that applies the same standards to the outdoor advertising industry that other businesses and individuals in the state must operate under? Because the billboard industry donates free space to these organizations, and it calls in the chips, so to speak, whenever there is a threat of unfavorable action by a legislative body.

The bill fell short of passage. The billboard industry mounted a shameless disinformation campaign to defeat it, and some senators got on board by claiming that it was an anti-jobs and anti-business bill, even though it was strictly limited to addressing the issue of illegality.

This isn’t the first time non-profits have done the bidding of billboard companies. Just to give one unsavory example, when neighborhood groups and the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight challenged the legality of permits issued to digital billboards in L.A.’s Westwood area last year, persons speaking on behalf of non-profits came to commission hearings to plead the case of billboard giants Clear Channel and CBS Outdoor, even though a Superior Court judge had ruled that the city acted illegally in allowing conventional billboards to be converted to digital.

Did these persons care that people in homes next-door to these billboards were plagued by the brilliant, ever-changing light, and the noise from cooling fans? Apparently not, as long as they could count on getting one of the eight-second spots for their cause.

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