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.