Scenic Nevada is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving, protecting, and enhancing the scenic character of Nevada. The following chronological events are some of our many positive accomplishments and some of the obstacles we have encountered since our inception.
January 20, 2000 – Following repeated attempts by Reno citizens to persuade the Reno Planning Commission and City Council to enact stronger billboard controls, a grassroots, volunteer organization called “Citizens for a Scenic Reno” (later renamed Scenic Nevada) was formed.
March 27, 2000 – CFASR filed nonprofit articles of incorporation with the Secretary of State’s office.
March 29, 2000 – CFASR filed an Initiative Petition, R-1, with the Reno City Clerk which, if passed, would prohibit the city from allowing new billboard permits and new billboard construction. It stated, “Off-premise advertising displays/billboards in the City of Reno are prohibited, and the City of Reno may not issue permits for their construction.”
June 26, 2000 – The Reno billboard industry filed a “dueling” petition stating, “Off-premise advertising displays (billboards) in the City of Reno shall only be permitted on property zoned commercial or industrial.”
July 25, 2000 – CFASR needed 6,790 signatures (15% of the vote’s cast in the last citywide election); CFASR collected 9,561 signatures in Reno by with 7,381 valid signatures, 951 valid signatures more than required by law.
July 29, 2000 – The Reno billboard industry withdrew their initiative petition from circulation stating: “the dueling petition drive confused voters. The group will now concentrate its efforts on defeating (CFASR’s) referendum.”
August 24, 2000 – The billboard industry filed a SLAPP (Strategic Litigation against Public Participation) lawsuit against the City of Reno and CFASR to remove the initiative from the ballot of the upcoming general election.
December 29, 2000 – Judge Jerome Polaha in the Second Judicial District Court dismissed the SLAPP suit against CFASR and ruled the City of Reno substantially complied with the statutes involved and that the petition had been properly and legally certified as sufficient. Eller Media appealed the decision to the Nevada Supreme Court.
November 7, 2000 – At the polls, of the 57,782 votes cast, 32,765, or 57%, voted in favor of Ballot Question R-1 with 43% or 25,017 voting no. CFASR spent $3,221 for passage of Billboard Ballot Question R-1 and the opponents spent $226,823. CFASR spent $.09 per each Yes vote and the billboard industry spent $9.06 per No vote. CFASR was outspent by a ratio of 70 to 1 by Eller Media.
November 14, 2000 – The Reno City Clerk certifies the vote and the ballot initiative, prohibiting new billboards and new permits, became law.
December 2000 – Less than one month later, the city council granted 11 new billboard permits to a billboard company to settle a lawsuit brought against the city.
2001 – Nevada Legislature enacted SB 265, introduced by the Nevada Outdoor Media Association, which limits local control of billboards by denying amortization.
June 8, 2001 – Citizens for a Scenic Reno changed its name to Citizens for a Scenic Northern Nevada (CFASNN) to enlarge its sphere of influence. At that time CFASNN represented the northern half of Nevada, which includes 12 out of Nevada’s 17 counties.
October 23, 2001 – Scenic America presented the Stafford Award to CFASR for its successful effort to prohibit new billboards and new permits in Reno. Scenic America’s Stafford Award, first presented in 1988, is named for Senator Robert T. Stafford, who was a Congressional leader in fighting for billboard control, scenic resource conservation and environmental protection.
2002 – Doug Smith, founder and president of Scenic Nevada, receives the W. Clark Santini Cup Award.
January 22, 2002 – a majority of the City Council voted to amend the municipal code to create a billboard “banking” and relocation system, allowing a billboard company to remove a billboard in one location and “bank” the permit for up to 10 years (later increased to 15 years) until a new permitted location could be found. The new law effectively repealed the ballot initiative barely 14 months after it was approved by the voters.
September 2002 – CFASNN changed its name to Scenic Nevada and expanded its focus statewide.
December 17, 2002 – Two years after the people voted for the billboard ban, The Nevada Supreme Court ruled in its published opinion that the billboard petition was legislative in character and a proper subject for an initiative petition.
January 6, 2003 – The billboard industry filed a Petition for Rehearing with the Nevada Supreme Court, which was denied a month later.
2004 – Doug Smith, founder and president of Scenic Nevada, receives the 2004 Golden Pinecone Award for his work in scenic conservation from environmental groups in northern Nevada.
February 13, 2008 – a majority of the Reno City Council, led by Councilman Dwight Dortch, voted to direct Reno City staff to initiate a text amendment to allow the construction and permitting of new digital billboards. City officials, including the city attorney’s office, reasoned that the ballot initiative allowed relocations and now could also allow “upgrades” to digital billboards.
April 25, 2008 to January 4, 2012 – The Reno Planning Commission and city staff held workshops and public hearings until a final draft of code was recommended in a 4-2 vote for approval to the city council, permitting digital billboards in Reno. Scenic Nevada was present, objecting to the proposed code, during the four years of meetings and appealed the commission’s decision four days after the vote.
July 27, 2011– Scenic Nevada releases results from a survey that shows 55% of the Reno registered voters surveyed do not want the city council to allow digital billboards. Further 80% believed there were enough or too many billboards in Reno and 60% did not want to view a digital billboard from their home or office window.
Feb 8, 2012 to Oct. 24, 2012 – The Reno City Council postponed Scenic Nevada’s appeal and held two more workshops, followed by staff meetings with the industry and Scenic Nevada. The industry-driven draft was finally approved after several delays at the Oct. 24, 2012 city council meeting. The council approved digital billboards but delayed the effective date until January 24, 2013, fearing the possibility of lawsuits.
Nov. 16, 2012 – Scenic Nevada files a lawsuit asking the court to void the new law. Scenic Nevada’s objections to the digital billboard ordinance were long-standing and consistent. We testified over and over again that allowing digital billboards within the Reno city limits was a violation of the voter initiative. Throughout the previous four years we accumulated and submitted thousands of pages of documents, including reports, emails, photographs, videos, scientific studies, power point presentations, related court cases, a petition and voter survey results; all opposing digital billboards.
December 12, 2012 – The Reno City Council passes a moratorium on digital billboards until all lawsuits and appeals concerning the digital billboard ordinance are resolved – with good reason. If Scenic Nevada wins and in the event digital billboards are approved and built, it could cost millions to have even one billboard taken down.
February 24, 2014 – A one-day bench trial was held in Second Judicial District Court before Judge Patrick Flanagan.
March 28, 2014 – Judge Flanagan releases his order that rules for the city and upholds the digital billboard ordinance.
March 29, 2014 – Scenic Nevada files an appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court.
Nov. 3, 2015 – The state Supreme Court held oral arguments en banc; meaning all seven justices, not just a three-member panel hear the arguments.
June 30, 2016 – The Supreme court ruling issues its opinion. The justices uphold the digital billboard ordinance. But in a stunning declaration; the court said the city had amended the ballot initiative in violation of the state constitution, which temporarily voided the banking and relocation ordinances, casting doubt on the validity of all billboards erected and permits handed out between 2002 and 2012.
June through December 2016 – Scenic Nevada launches an intense lobbying campaign to convince the Reno City Council to enforce the vote enacted by the people in 2000. Finally, the council unanimously agreed and called for a new moratorium until the billboard law could be rewritten to eliminate banking and relocation and the construction and permits for new billboards, including digital billboards.
February 14, 2017 – City Council votes on the moratorium, which barely passes in a 4-2 vote. Three council members switch their previous vote to enact the billboard ban and want to reconsider adding digital billboards, which would be new construction requiring new permits.
February 21, 2017 – The city council couldn’t agree on what to do about unused permits granted between 2002 and 2012, either. Scenic Nevada said they were void and the city attorney disagreed. We filed a second lawsuit asking the court to decide.
April 10, 2017 – Scenic Nevada commissioned a new survey of Reno voters and publicized the results. 78% agreed the city should enforce the ban; 83% were concerned about traffic safety; 74% were concerned about decreasing property values; 80% didn’t want to view a billboard from their home or office window; and 70% agreed that digital billboards make Reno less attractive.
June 2017 – Three council members switched their position again and the Reno City Council voted unanimously to request a rewrite of the billboard ordinances to prohibit all new billboard construction, including digital billboards, plus end banking and relocation. The council agrees to wait for the court’s decision on the unused permits.
July 24, 2017 – Oral Arguments before Judge Scott Freeman are held in Second Judicial District Court on whether the unused billboard permits are valid.
August 2, 2017 – Judge Freeman grants Scenic Nevada’s request and voids the unused permits and orders the city to cease and desist from allowing new billboard construction using the voided permits.
August 29, 2017 – The city of Reno joins with the billboard company, Lamar Outdoor, to appeal Judge Freeman’s decision voiding the unused billboard permits to the Nevada Supreme Court.
Sept 15, 2017 – the new billboard ordinance was adopted and became law. It prohibits all new billboard construction, except for those who are holding unused billboard permits. Digital billboards are also prohibited and Lamar immediately sued the city to get it overturned.
October 2017 – Nevada Supreme Court ordered settlement discussions.
November 15, 2017 – Settlement agreement is reached between the city, Lamar and Scenic Nevada to end all litigation, preserving the new billboard ban, in exchange for re-validating the unused permits voided by Judge Freeman. The city council unanimously approves the agreement one day after the 17th anniversary of the people’s vote in 2000 to prohibit the construction of all new billboards.