Possible New Date – June 14

The Reno City Council will postpone discussing the people’s billboard ban Wednesday, June 7 and is expected to set June 14 at 6 p.m. as the new date. Not all of the council members could attend the evening session next week, when the item is scheduled to be heard. The new date is meant to accommodate council members who want to be there for the vote on whether to keep the people’s billboard ban or repeal it.

The announcement on the postponement will be made during the beginning of next week’s council meeting when the agenda is set. Three city officials called Scenic Nevada last week when talk of the date change emerged. All think it will be moved to June 14 at 6 p.m. If it changes again, we’ll post it here.

What’s at Stake

When the discussion is held, the council is expected to give direction to city planning staff on how to rewrite the billboard ordinance, the next step in making changes, we hope, will enforce a vote of the people to ban new construction of billboards.

Billboards line the east bound Interstate 80 gateway into Reno.

The previous council enacted city ordinances that allow new billboards, despite the law banning new ones approved by the voters in 2000. Since then the city has allowed new construction; when a billboard comes down a new one can be erected in a new location, most often where no billboard stood before. If there’s nowhere to put it, sign owners can “bank” the permit and use it when a new location is found, leaving a backlog of about 82 unused permits. Also, in 2012, the previous council enacted regulations to allow digital billboards, but those rules were put on hold until our lawsuit challenging them was resolved.

We’ve argued for the past 17 years that those ordinances were a violation of the ballot initiative approved by 57% of the voters. In an April survey of 717 Reno voters, commissioned by Scenic Nevada, 78% said the city council should honor the vote and not allow new billboards. The ballot initiative is part of city code today and says:

“The construction of new off-premises advertising displays/billboards is prohibited and the city may not issue permits for their construction.”

The Nevada Supreme Court ruled in our lawsuit that the city’s scheme allowing new construction unconstitutionally amended the people’s ban within three years of the vote. It’s long past the three year limit and the current city council can enact regulations that honor the vote or repeal it.

Scenic Nevada is asking the city council to void all the regulations allowing new billboards, called banking and relocation ordinances, and the rules allowing digital billboards, keeping the people’s billboard ban intact and allowing attrition to take its toll. Billboards removed for property redevelopment or expired leases would not be replaced. Over time attrition would alleviate the clutter and blight billboards clearly bring to our neighborhood commercial areas, like MidTown. Billboards also block scenic views along our highways and contribute to reducing property values. Digital billboards distract drivers, dim the dark night skies and use far too much energy.

Mark Your Calendars

The council’s decision can go in any direction. We think the best and simplest one is to enforce the people’s vote; no new construction, which means closing the billboard bank and prohibiting new construction and permits for both standard and digital billboards. Please come to the June 14 hearing at Reno city hall, starting at 6 p.m. The nighttime hearing is at our request so that more residents can attend. Your participation is crucial. Honor the vote!