Reno voters polled this week (April 6-7) gave clear direction to the city council to enforce the people’s ban on new billboard construction with an overwhelming 78% in agreement that the 2000 vote should be honored. A majority also said they were concerned with traffic safety, community aesthetics and decreased property values for Reno neighborhoods that could be the target of new standard and digital billboards.

Majority Wants the Billboard Ban Enforced

Scenic Nevada commissioned the poll to find out if residents today feel the same as voters did 17 years ago when the ban was approved by 57% of the voters. The results this week show even more are concerned about the negative impacts of billboards. Click here to see the polling results.

• Enforce the ban? 78% said yes; 15% said no; 8% not sure.
• Concern about traffic safety and distracted driving? 83% would be concerned, if digitals are allowed; 17% not concerned.
• Digital billboards make Reno less attractive. 70% agree; 30% disagree.
• Viewing a billboard outside your home or office window? 80% would object; 15% would not object; 5% unsure.
• Concern about decreasing property values because of new billboards? 74% are concerned; 25% not concerned.

Previous City Council’s Work around

The people’s ban became law in 2000, leaving the existing billboard inventory untouched. Over time, it was expected that billboards would come down for one reason or another, reducing the clutter and blight that comes with too many signs.

New billboard under construction in 2011 along Interstate 580

But that didn’t occur because the billboard ban has never been enforced. Instead, the previous council enacted ordinances to get around it. When one comes down, another was allowed with a new permit in a new location, where no billboard stood before. The previous council in 2012 also approved regulations that would have allowed new digital billboards, flipping every eight seconds, flashing changing ads, day and night. Those regulations are on hold while the current city council sorts through the billboard issues.

The poll was conducted by Public Policy Polling of Raleigh, NC on April 6 and 7 and includes 717 responses. The results demonstrate a “bipartisan, broad-based and diverse” coalition of support for enforcing the billboard ban, the company said in its report on the survey results. Read the report.

Current Council Is Divided

The current council is divided over enforcing the vote. Mayor Hillary Schieve and Council Members Oscar Delgado and Neoma Jardin have signaled their intent to allow new billboards. Council Members Jenny Brekhus (the catalyst for the recent council discussions), Paul McKenzie and Naomi Duerr have said the people’s ban should be enforced and asked for a rewrite of the billboard ordinance to reflect that vote. Councilman David Bobzien is claiming a conflict of interest and isn’t participating.

The poll results confirm what we’ve long suspected; Reno residents are not content with the city’s policies for the past decade and want the voter approved billboard ban honored. City staff also agrees and in its last report March 22 to the council said essentially that new standard and digital billboards should not be allowed. An online petition signed by over 500 persons also asks the council to enforce the billboard ban. See the petition and leave a comment for the council.

We think the poll, plus the petition, and staff’s report should clear up any confusion over the intent of the people’s billboard ban and the direction the city council ultimately should take. Billboards blight our neighborhood commercial areas, block pristine scenic views of the Sierras and continue to weigh down Reno’s economic development. Digital billboards are intrusive energy hogs that dim the night sky, distract drivers and can be viewed for miles. Under state law, billboards are considered a public nusiance that require regulations.

The previous city council’s approach has not worked and the current city council should face that abysmal fact and finally enforce the people’s ban on new construction and ban digitals. As details become available, we’ll keep you posted on the next billboard discussion, expected during the April 26 council meeting.