Bill Summary for H 581 (2017-2018)

Summary date: 

Apr 6 2017

Bill Information:

View NCGA Bill Details2017-2018 Session
House Bill 581 (Public) Filed Wednesday, April 5, 2017
AN ACT TO PROMOTE UNIFORMITY OF REGULATION AND MODERNIZATION OF OUTDOOR ADVERTISING, TO ALLOW FOR THE RELOCATION AND RECONSTRUCTION OF OFF-PREMISES OUTDOOR ADVERTISING, TO INCREASE PERMIT FEES FOR OUTDOOR ADVERTISING, TO CLARIFY STANDARDS FOR SELECTIVE VEGETATION REMOVAL, AND TO ESTABLISH A REASONABLE TIME FRAME FOR MAKING AGENCY DECISIONS REGARDING PERMITS AND APPEALS.
Intro. by Lewis, Saine, Goodman, Hanes.

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Bill summary

Amends Article 11 of GS Chapter 136, the Outdoor Advertising Control Act, as follows.

Adds to the declaration of policy in GS 136-127 that the General Assembly finds and declares off-premises outdoor advertising is an important and distinct medium of communication for effectively displaying commercial and noncommercial messages and is an established segment of the national economy that serves to promote and protect investments in commerce and industry. Further finds that off-premises advertising is a use of land that should be preserved and its modernization fostered in order to enable new technology and more inventive ways of communicating. Modifies the declared intent, now providing that the intent of the General Assembly is to declare a pubic policy and statutory basis for the establishment of a uniform system for the regulation and control of off-premises outdoor advertising throughout the state. Makes conforming and clarifying changes.

Modifies and adds to the definitions that apply to the Article, set out in GS 136-128. Modifies the definitions for erect or erection, nonconforming sign, and unzoned commercial or industrial area (was, unzoned area). Adds and defines the terms area zoned commercial or industrial, changeable message sign, customary use, maintain or maintenance, main-traveled way or main travel way, sign face, and sign location or site. Defines off-premises outdoor advertising to mean the use of land consisting of a sign erected and maintained for the purpose of (1) displaying, advertising, identifying, or directing attention to business products, operations, or services sold or offered at a site other than the site where the sign is erected or (2) promoting an attraction, activity, idea, opinion, or other noncommercial messaging that is unrelated to the site where the sign is erected. Provides that a sign meeting this definition is commonly known as a billboard, where space is commonly made available or rented to advertisers to display their messages to the traveling public. Makes technical changes to the statute.

Enacts GS 136-130.1, detailing nine criteria that one or more commercial or industrial activities must meet to qualify an area unzoned commercial or industrial for purposes of Article 11 prior to submitting an outdoor advertising permit application, including that the activity must have a direct or indirect vehicular access and be a generator of vehicular traffic, and the activity must be in active operation a minimum of six months prior to the date of submitting an application for an outdoor advertising permit. Details guidelines to be used in making a determination as to whether an activity meets the criteria. Specifies ten activities that cannot be considered for purposes of qualifying an area as unzoned commercial or industrial, including transient or temporary activities and activities not visible and recognizable as commercial or industrial from the traffic lanes of the main-traveled highway.

Amends GS 136-129, which prohibits any outdoor advertising to be erected or maintained within 660 feet of the nearest edge of the right-of-way of the interstate or primary highway systems in this State so as to be visible from the main-traveled way thereof after the effective date of the Article as determined by GS 136-140, and delineates six exceptions to the prohibition. Modifies the exception in subdivision (4) to except outdoor advertising, in conformity with customary use and the rules and regulations promulgated by the Department of Transportation, pursuant to GS 136‑130, located in areas which are zoned commercial or industrial by the State, or a political subdivision of the State, under authority of State law. Modifies the exception in subdivision (5) to except outdoor advertising, in conformity with customary use and the rules and regulations promulgated by the Department of Transportation, pursuant to GS 136‑130, located in unzoned commercial or industrial areas.

Amends GS 136-129.2, which sets forth limitations of outdoor advertising devices adjacent to scenic highways, state and national parks, historic areas and other places, to add new subsection to clarify that the Article does not alter or supersede the requirements and limitations set forth in Article 10 of GS Chapter 113A (Control of Outdoor Advertising near the Blue Ridge Parkway).

Makes conforming, clarifying, and technical changes to GS 136-130, concerning the regulation of advertising. Makes organizational change to place existing language into new subsection (a). Adds new subsection (b) to prohibit the Department of Transportation from denying or revoking a permit for outdoor advertising required under the Article on the basis that the outdoor advertising fails to conform to ordinances, rules, or regulations of a municipality, county, local or regional zoning authority, or other political subdivisions of the State, except for the case of the proposed erection of a new outdoor advertising sign at a new sign location or site that fails to comply at the time of denial with ordinances, rules, or regulations of a municipality, county, local or regional zoning authority, or other political subdivision of the State that are consistent with GS 136-131.2(b).

Modifies GS 136-131.2 (Modernization of outdoor advertising devices) to now provide as follows. Subsection (a) establishes that no municipality, county, local or regional zoning authority, or other political subdivision can, without the payment of just compensation as provided for in GS 136‑131.1, regulate or prohibit the repair, maintenance, alteration, or reconstruction of any outdoor advertising for which there is in effect a valid permit issued by the Department of Transportation at the time of the repair, maintenance, alteration, or reconstruction, so long as for multi‑faced signs conforming to customary use, the cumulative square footage of the advertising surface area is not increased and no sign face exceeds 672 square feet. Permits the size of a sign face or faces of another off‑premises outdoor advertising sign permanently taken down in the same jurisdiction within 120 days of a sign being reconstructed to be combined to increase the cumulative advertising surface area of the reconstructed sign, but prohibits exceeding 672 square feet for any sign face. Allows one additional sign face to be added to a single‑face sign conforming to customary use so long as the additional face does not exceed the size of the existing sign face. Sets out the meaning of repair, maintenance, alteration or reconstruction as used in the statute. 

Subsection (b) clarifies that the statute does not prohibit a municipality, county, local or regional zoning authority, or other political subdivision from using its zoning authority to regulate (1) the initial erection of an outdoor advertising sign that has not been relocated pursuant to applicable law or (2) outdoor advertising in which a permit issued by the Department of Transportation pursuant to this Article has been voluntarily cancelled or lawfully revoked, and any appeals under GS 136‑134.1 have been exhausted. Further provides that no decision of an administrative official charged with enforcement of a local ordinance, rule, or regulation is effective against an owner or operator of outdoor advertising for any activity authorized by this section, and no appeal under GS 153A‑345.1 or GS 160A‑388 is required to protect the outdoor advertiser's rights under this section.

Subsection (c) provides that any outdoor advertising adjacent to a highway on the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways, or a highway on the federal‑aid primary highway system, for which there is in effect a valid permit issued by the Department of Transportation, including any sign relocated pursuant to applicable law, must be permitted to be altered or reconstructed to a changeable message sign, subject to the limitations set forth in subsection (a) of the statute and the seven requirements detailed in the subsection.

Subsection (d) authorizes the Department of Transportation to adopt or enforce rules that restrict the rights set forth in the statute for outdoor advertising that does not conform to customary use and whose failure to conform to customary use cannot be eliminated through any repair, maintenance, alteration, relocation, or reconstruction authorized in the statute.

Subsection (e) prohibits the Department from requiring additional permits, or revoking any existing permits, for any action taken pursuant to the statute. Permits the Department to require an addendum to an existing permit within 30 days of the completion of any action taken pursuant to the statute showing or describing the changes to the conditions of the outdoor advertising sign. Establishes that the rights set forth in the statute attach to a permit issue by the Department and expire with the voluntary cancellation of the permit or after the permit has been lawfully revoked and any appeals pursuant to GS 136-134.1 have been exhausted. Clarifies that the rights set forth in the statute do not run with the land.

The above changes to GS 136-131.2 apply to repairs, maintenance, alterations, and reconstructions on or after the date the act becomes law.

Makes organizational changes to GS 136-133. Amends GS 136-133 to require the Secretary of the Department of Transportation (Secretary) to affirm or reject an appeal of a decision to refuse to grant or revoke a permit within 90 days after the Secretary receives the agency appeal. Adds that failure to provide written notice to the aggrieved party of the Secretary's decision to affirm or reject the agency appeal within the 90‑day period results in the appeal being affirmed, entitling the aggrieved party to issuance of the outdoor advertising permit or reversal of the Department of Transportation's decision to revoke. Applies to appeals filed on or after the date the act becomes law.

Modifies the permit fees for outdoor structures, as set forth in GS 136-129(4) and (5) (amended above), to now cap the fees at $240 (was $120) for the initial fee, $75 (was, $60) for the annual renewal fee, and $240 for an addendum to an existing outdoor advertising permit for (1) relocating outdoor advertising beyond the existing sign location or site where the outdoor advertising was located immediately prior to the relocation or (2) altering or reconstructing to a changeable message sign, in accordance with GS 136‑131.2. Applies to permits issued on or after the date the act becomes law.

Adds to subsection (c), providing that no building permit can be denied to an outdoor advertising sign in GS 136-129(4) or (5) for which the Department of Transportation has issued a permit that has not been revoked, and the building permit is otherwise compliance with building code standards. Further provides that no building permit or local building inspection authorized under GS Chapters 153A or 160A can be required for off‑premises advertising if the proposed construction is evaluated by a professional engineer, acting within the scope of the engineer's authority, and the construction is certified by the engineer as being in compliance with the State Building Code. 

Makes technical change to the statutory reference in GS 136-133.5 (Denial of a permit for proposed outdoor advertising). Adds new subsection (h), requiring the Department of Transportation to approve or deny an application for a permit for a new outdoor advertising sign within 30 days of the receipt of an application, including any fee required by GS 136‑133 and any other required documentation. Adds that failure to provide written notice to the applicant of the Department's decision to approve or deny the application within the 30‑day period results in the appeal being affirmed, entitling the applicant to issuance of the permit for a new outdoor advertising structure (appears to intend: results in the application being approved and entitling the applicant to issuance of the permit for a new outdoor advertising sign). Applies to applications received on or after the date the act becomes law.

Makes organizational changes to GS 136-134.2 (Notification requirements). Adds new subsection (b) setting out the notification requirement for revocation of a permit. Adds new subsection (c) for notification requirements for the cancellation of a permit. Places existing language into subsection (a), setting out the notice requirements for notice of the denial of an application for a permit or nonconformance of an outdoor advertising structure. Places existing language into subsection (d), providing for the tolling of the review hearing upon the Department's failure to provide required materials. Applies to revocations and cancellations on or after the date the act becomes law.

Amends GS 136-138 to specify that the Department of Transportation is authorized to enter into agreements with the US government or any department or agency thereof relating to the control of outdoor advertising as previously specified. Adds new provisions requiring the General Assembly to approve any revisions to the agreement dated January 7, 1972, and entered into between the State and the US Department of Transportation to implement the provisions of the federal Highway Beautification Act of 1965, in order to be effective. Prohibits the Department from entering into any agreement or otherwise transferring or delegating the Department's regulatory authority set forth in this Article to any other governmental authority. Applies to revisions made on or after the date the act becomes law.

Amends GS 136-18(9), authorizing the Department of Transportation to allow the roadside parks, picnic areas, picnic tables, scenic overlooks or other turnouts, or any part of the highway right-of-way to be used for commercial purposes, to the extent allowed by federal law, and as permitted by the local government or the designated authority, for outdoor advertising on or with any transit shelter or rail or bus facility. 

Enacts GS 136-140.2 to direct the Department of Transportation to work together with the owners of changeable message signs and a host of government entities to develop a public notification plan for the purpose of using changeable message signs to display notifications to the traveling public related to public safety and emergencies. Public notifications include information about Silver Alerts, Amber Alerts, inclement weather, natural disasters, and other emergencies. Requires the plan to be in writing and address: (1) the criteria to be applied in determining when it is appropriate to request that an owner of a changeable message sign display a public notification and (2) the procedures used to determine the expiration of a notification and to recall the request once the information is no longer needed. Effective October 1, 2017.

Amends GS 87-1 to except from the definition of general contractor any person engaged in the construction of outdoor advertising signs subject to Article 11 of GS Chapter 136.

Directs the Department of Transportation to adopt rules to implement the provisions of the act no later than six months after the effective date of the act. Sets forth the procedure the Department is to use to adopt the rules, which include having the proposed rule published, accepting written comments on the proposed rule, and holding a public hearing on the proposed rule prior to adoption. Provides that a rule adopted in accordance with this provision becomes effective on the first day of the month following the month the Department of Transportation adopts the rule and submits the rule to the Codifier of Rules for entry into the NC Administrative Code. Any rule adopted more than six months after the effective date of this act must comply with the requirement of Article 2A of GS Chapter 150B.

Makes any rule or policy adopted by the Department that does not comply with with this act null and void.

Provides a severability clause.

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