Emphasize the role of local control over billboard sign regulations, said comments submitted by the League this week. The comments, offered to the N.C. Department of Transportation in response to proposed changes to the agency’s outdoor advertising rules, focused on ensuring that state rules encompassed local regulatory authority as well. The agency initiated this rulemaking in response to a requirement to review and revise its rules at least once a decade. While most of the proposed changes were ministerial updates, the League asked the agency to reference local billboard ordinances in the rule definitions. The League argued that this change would reiterate local control over outdoor advertising in cities and towns.
Local government officials told members of the state General Statutes Commission on Friday that differences in communities across the state require different approaches to local ordinances and whether or not they carry misdemeanor criminal penalties. The commission was authorized by the General Assembly to study duplication of criminal penalties, including local ordinances that can carry a misdemeanor penalty. The study comes as some advocates have pushed to curb or eliminate criminal penalties as enforcement mechanisms in local ordinances.
Burlington Police Chief Jeff Smythe told commission members that criminal enforcement – though rarely used – is needed to force compliance when civil penalties fail to gain violators’ attention. Raleigh Deputy City Attorney Dottie Kibler said the use of a criminal misdemeanor will often force compliance much quicker than attempting to pursue an injunction in court. “Our goal is to get compliance,” she said.
The message from local officials appeared to be heard, as commission members noted how different local noise and dangerous animal ordinances are from each other, and how a local approach appeared best to address differences in communities and their standards. The commission, facing a deadline of May 1 to issue a report, indicated that they were likely to issue an interim that looked at the issue broadly and did not dive into the merits of individual local ordinances. The commission is expected to hear from advocates favoring streamlining of criminal penalties at their April meeting.
League staff helped to arrange the testimony on Friday and will continue to monitor this important issue involving local authority.
If your municipality has outdoor lighting, then this is an important event. Make sure your town is represented. Join the League and Duke Energy for a discussion on street lighting strategies and rate updates at the NC APWA state conference in April. The session on outdoor lighting will be at 4 p.m. on April 23 and is an opportunity for League members and Duke Energy Outdoor Lighting to discuss outdoor lighting rate updates, process and overview for converting lights to LED, any upcoming projects (including small attachment capabilities), and any questions municipal customers may have.
This session continues discussions that began after the League intervened in the utility’s rate cases before the N.C. Utilities Commission in 2013 and 2017. The League of Municipalities has again intervened on Duke’s current rate cases, and the Utility Commission’s hearings start this month. Read news from this week about the rate cases.