Commissioners say no digital billboards in Washoe County – a clear victory for scenic preservation
In a clean sweep, Washoe County commissioners on Tuesday, Nov. 12 unanimously agreed to keep existing scenic and community protections by saying no to more billboards, digital billboards, new billboard locations and relocation of billboards. Thanks to all of those who supported Scenic Nevada by sending emails to the commissioners.
The topic appeared on the commissioners' agenda because county staff asked whether to roll back billboard restrictions during the process of updating the county’s sign code. The commissioners' answer? No.
“Clearly, I’m not interested in having more billboards," said Commissioner Marsha Berkbigler. "I really don’t want to drive over beautiful (Interstate) 580 and see billboards all over those gorgeous hills.”
Billboards contribute to blight, mar scenic views, negatively impact property values and affect the quality of life in neighborhoods. Digital signs are even more intrusive, distracting drivers with flashing, brightly lit advertisements, flipping every eight seconds, night and day.
Both Commission Chairman David Humke and Commissioner Vaughn Hartung said they find digital billboards distracting. Commissioners expressed opposition to on-premise digital signs too, but added that special permits with a public hearing is a possibility.
Humke also reasoned that sign code workshops are public meetings that should be subject to open meeting laws. The commissioners agreed. The next workshop will be held at 3 p.m., November 21 in the Mt. Rose Conference Room at the county offices, 1001 East Ninth Street in Reno. For more information about that workshop, email firstname.lastname@example.org or check the county's website for the posted agenda.
The commission acknowledged receiving dozens of emails from people who were concerned about allowing new and digital billboards in the county. Thank you to everyone who stood up for scenic preservation! Special thanks go to Peter Chase Neumann, notable Reno attorney and Scenic America board member, who appeared at the commission meeting to speak on behalf of scenic preservation for the community.
Under existing laws, there are 65 billboards allowed in Washoe County. In more permissive jurisdictions, billboards have been allowed to proliferate. For example, in Reno, there are about 300 billboard permits in a municipality that allows new construction, relocations and digitals. (However, a lawsuit filed by Scenic Nevada has temporarily halted the electronic signs in Reno.)