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Sign Ordinance Taking Shape
By Alicia B. Hill
June 21, 2017

After months of review, county staff are beginning to see the updated sign ordinance take shape.
Both the City of LaGrange and Troup County have been working to bring their sign ordinances in line with state ruling for months in an effort to make them legal, enforceable and up to date with modern technology. On Tuesday, the Troup County Board of Commissioners offered its comments on the updated county ordinance which is now nearing completion and focused much of its attention on how the ordinance will affect temporary signage.
"We reached a compromise that we think is workable to allow temporary signage for 20 calendar days without a permit, but for anything over 20 days it would be with a permit," County Planner Tracie Hadaway. "We would allow it for 30 days once a quarter."
The permit would give the county the ability to enforce the sign ordinance, and discourage residents from keeping signs that are designed to be temporary up for months at a time. The updated ordinance will also attempt to make new signage more consistent between the cities and the county.
"The main changes between the ordinance that we've got now and the one that we are revising (are to) the free standing poles located in the commercial industrial zoning districts are reduced from 35 foot to 25 foot-35 is what is in the existing zoning ordinance - and the sides would be decreased from 200 square feet to 100 square feet," Hadaway said. "This change is more consistent with the municipalities and other jurisdictions, although Troup County will still be on the higher side for height."
Other updates to the sign ordinance include decreasing how many signs are allowed to cover store windows from 100 percent to 20 percent, billboards will be allowed on Interstate 85, digital multiple message boards will not be allowed on Troup County's scenic roads - which are currently designated as Salem Road, Dennis Smith Road and Salem-Chipley Road- and portable signs will only be allowed on a temporary basis with a permit.
The commissioners have reviewed the ordinance, and its updates, and some expressed concern on the ease of citizens hoping obtain permission to put up temporary signs.
"Is that something that can be done online?" Commissioner Lewis Davis asked. "Or is that something that they will physically need to come into the zoning office for?"
According to Senior Building Official Jay Anderson, the forms should be available online, but citizens would still need to come into the office to turn them in at this point. Signs for weekend events like yard sales would not require a permit, but would only be allowed on Fridays through Tuesdays mornings.
Some concern was also expressed over the ordinance's regulations concerning flags.
"Whatever we can do or need to do, we do not need to get into a discussion about if people can fly a large American flag," County Commission Chairman Patrick Crews said. "I've seen too many communities and homeowner's associations get in fights about that, and I think we don't want to go there."
The update ordinance purposefully avoids naming what can and cannot be displayed on signs due to the ruling of a recent lawsuit where it was found that content based regulations which specifically list sign categories as yard sale signs and realtor signs instead of weekend signs and event signs could easily run afoul of first amendment rights. The county staff has been hesitant to make exceptions in the ordinance, even for the American flag.
Staff did however agree to take a closer look at how the ordinance could affect county citizens display the American flag.
Hadaway also noted that staff hoped to put together a reference guide on signage regulations for local business owners who may have questions regarding the updated signage policy.
The Troup County Board of Commissioners voted to extend the moratorium on signage for another 30 days in order to make it possible to have a final public hearing before the updated sign ordinance is passed.
The vote will be held on July 18 at 9 a.m. at 100 Ridley Avenue which will be the next meeting with an accompanying work session when all the commissioners will be able to attend.
By Staff Writer
June 28, 2017

Insider had a chance to talk with Grey Vick, owner of Grey Outdoor, based in Wilmington North Carolina about the current North Carolina legislation under consideration.  Here are some thoughts on legislation from the perspective of an owner/operator.

House Bill 581 has been receiving a lot of media attention.  What do you see as the main issues surrounding the legislation?

The main issue is that local municipalities and counties may lose more control of their decision making about outdoor advertising within their communities.  The main point being any sign with a ncdot permit can be upgraded to a digital given proper spacing requirements etc but local laws cannot prevent the upgrade. Some sign owners in NC don't seem as thrilled because they have worked really hard to obtain new permits and this would allow the bigger companies to essentially do whatever they want throughout the state.  
Does the legislation impact all the billboards in North Carolina?

It only affects billboards on highways that have a valid ncdot permit issued. Some other areas may not be included in the legislation.

Currently, how much flexibility do you have to perform major maintenance, upgrade or relocate signs?

They passed earlier legislation in NC that allows any sign with a ncdot permit to be upgraded from a multi pole sign to a monopole without local approval. Relocation isn't allowed but it can be replaced in the same location.

Earlier versions of the legislation included changes in cutting zones for vegetation.  Is that still a part of proposed legislation?

I believe it keeps the vegetation window the same size it just allows a vegetation permit to be issued after the sign has been erected for one year vs the existing two year window currently. It allows cutting and replanting in the medians of highways and interstates and also allows for relocation of prior protected red buds and dogwood trees within the selective vegetation window.

I understand that the definition of just compensation is a part of the bill? How is it impacted?

Not sure how it changes from the existing requirements but it requires the payment of monetary compensation for the removal of any outdoor advertising unless the the owner and municipality agree to a relocation of the sign. It also adds several factors in determining the monetary value including the income generated by the sign so it would significantly increase the value of the just compensation from what I can tell. It seems as if the bill allows any sign with a Permit to be relocated anywhere within a jurisdiction even if the jurisdiction doesn't allow the relocation. This is true even if there is existing right or way vegetation at the site to be moved to. It allows a selective vegetation permit for the new site.

Does the bill take away any local authority from cities or counties on zoning or permitting decisions?

Yes for existing signs to be relocated or upgraded. For new permits they would still have the first line of defense to issue a new permit for a new site unless it is relocated.

As we were going to post -  WRAL.com  published that North Carolina House defeated HR Bill 581 by a 49-66 vote on Tuesday. The vote surprised the House Speaker, Tim Moore, who had ensured opponents that a thorough debate would be held before the final vote.

Some comments from other members of the house include:
  • Rep. Jay Adams, R-Catawba, called the "no new billboards" promise a hollow one, noting the bill would allow companies to put replacement billboards up in new locations.
  •  "This is a corporate welfare bill," said Rep.Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, arguing that the large-scale owners who can afford to replace older billboards would eventually buy out the smaller operators and take over their permitted inventory of signs.
  • Rep. Ted Davis, R-New Hanover, objected to allowing digital signs to replace older billboards, saying it would create "clutter" that could diminish the appeal of some communities.
We got a hold of Grey Vick who's final comment was:
  •  "I heard they didn't think it would go through and I guess it wouldn't. It would have helped me some but not sure it made sense for the local towns."
Eco-Group Billboard Blitz to Greet Interior Chief
By Matt Volz
June 24, 2017
HELENA, Mont. - Environmental groups plan to crash the homecoming in Montana next week of President Trump's Interior Department secretary with billboards, television ads and speeches to pressure him on issues from national monuments to sage grouse.

Ryan Zinke is scheduled to address the Western Governors Association's annual conference Tuesday in the town of Whitefish, which he represented as a state lawmaker from 2009 to 2011.

He will be welcomed by billboards urging him not to touch the Upper Missouri River Breaks, one of two dozen national monuments he's reviewing to eliminate or scale back protections.

Television ads will air during the conference telling him to leave alone a conservation plan by the Obama administration and 11 Western states to protect the sage grouse, an imperiled bird.

Advocates will give speeches in a downtown Whitefish park the day before Zinke's address, calling on the interior chief to better protect public lands.

"Welcome home," said Larry Epstein, a member of group renting the billboards that supports the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument. "We hope to get the attention of Secretary Zinke and the Western governors."

Eleven governors, their staffs, lobbyists, business representatives and special interest groups will meet in the resort town near Glacier National Park on topics that include the Endangered Species Act, forest management and ties with Canada.

Zinke spokeswoman Heather Swift and the Department of Interior press office did not return email queries for comment. Zinke is a graduate of the University of Oregon.

Supporters of the Trump administration's plans to review and possibly loosen existing land and wildlife protections are dismayed by the heavy investment that environmentalists are making to confront Zinke on his home turf.

Ron Poertner, one of about 120 ranchers, farmers and landowners who live in or use the Upper Missouri River Breaks and favor reducing the size of the 590-square-mile national monument, said they can't compete with that level of organization and money.

"We're haying, we're still spraying weeds, we're still doing farm work," Poertner said. "To say, 'Let's take a bus and do some counter-protesting,' there's no way."

The Montana monument, created in 2001 just before President Bill Clinton left office, includes federal, state and private land that surrounds a 149-mile stretch of the Missouri River that is mostly unchanged since Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery traversed it in the early 1800s.

Zinke is reviewing it and 23 other monuments in a report that will recommend whether they should be resized or eliminated.

Opponents of changes, such as Epstein's Hold Our Ground group, say the review is a waste of taxpayer money by rehashing already settled arguments. Supporters like Poertner are worried they'll be squeezed off the land and say presidents have too much power to unilaterally designate national monuments.

Zinke's Interior Department also is reviewing the land-use policies implemented in 2015 as a way of preventing even stricter policies to protect the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act.

The conservation group Western Values Project is launching a television ad campaign for the Western Governors Association meant to ratchet up pressure on both Zinke and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock.

"It appears Secretary Zinke wants to scrap all the work done by to Western communities, coalitions, sportsmen and women, wildlife managers, private landowners, and industry groups," Executive Director Chris Saeger said in a statement. "If Governor Bullock has an audience with Secretary Zinke next week, he must use it to insist that Interior continue with the sage-grouse plans."

'Don't Trade Porzingis' Billboard Delivers Loud, Clear Message to Knicks
By Dan Devine
June 23, 2017

In the hours leading up to the 2017 NBA draft, the main question on the mind of New York Knicks fans wasn't which prospect the team would select with the eighth overall pick. Nor was it whether Knicks owner James Dolan would find time to treat concert-goers at City Winery to any Johnny Cash covers later that evening. (Spoiler alert: he did!) No, the one thing every Knicks fan wanted to know: would they really trade 21-year-old franchise centerpiece Kristaps Porzingis, as president of basketball operations Phil Jackson had been suggesting the team might make in the run-up to Thursday's draft?

The mere suggestion that Jackson might jettison the lone bright spot from the last two dark and chaotic years of Knicks basketball, whether over a missed exit interview or out of a desire to kickstart a rebuild necessitated by the sins of management in pretty much every area but drafting Kristaps, left Knicks fans furious and apoplectic. And it drove one fan to take extreme measures, expressing his opposition to the idea of trading away the 7-foot-3 Latvian star in very big, very bright lights:

During Thursday's draft, a gigantic digital billboard displayed the text "DON'T TRADE PORZINGIS" on the corner of 33rd Street and 7th Avenue, directly across from Madison Square Garden. (The smaller print: "We are not affiliated with Porzingis. We just want him to stay.")
The message came courtesy of Cycle, and specifically from Knicks fan Rob Perez, who hosts a digital basketball show called "Buckets" for the culture website. As Perez explained via Periscope, the billboard was his way of putting his money where his mouth was - making sure that Jackson and the rest of the decision-makers at MSG couldn't possibly avoid the voice of this particular fan.

McDonald's Billboard and Our Marijuana Reality
By Monterey Bud
June 5, 2017
Recreational marijuana use may still be illegal in New Mexico but that hasn't stopped one clever McDonald's franchise from strategically placing an intriguing billboard near the Colorado / New Mexico border.

Pandering to the soon-to-be famished road warriors headed for the Colorado state line and the legal weed that awaits them, a chronic tweet of a creative billboard near Raton, N.M. lit up social media over the weekend.

"Usually when you roll something this good, it's illegal!"

Referencing Colorado's legal marijuana market, the bold billboard left more than a few weary travelers wondering whether it was a political statement or just clever marketing.

Either way, according to KRQE, the dope billboard "has people laughing and many saying its placement is key."

The billboard jokingly emphasizes the costly dividing line between the dark days of marijuana prohibition and America's new reality - legal marijuana.