By Carla O’Day
A moratorium on accepting applications to convert traditional billboards into electronic billboards was extended today by the Reno City Council for the third consecutive year.
The purpose of the moratorium is to temporarily halt applications until legal challenges against the city’s digital billboard ordinance have been resolved.
Placement of new billboards was prohibited by voters in the 2000 general election and the city interpretation of the referendum was that it does not preclude the repair, relocation or upgrading of existing billboards.
In October 2012, the City Council passed an ordinance to regulate digital billboards and two lawsuits were filed against the city by Scenic Nevada Inc. and Saunders Outdoor Advertising. The Scenic Nevada case is awaiting a state Supreme Court decision.
Scenic Nevada board member Lori Wray told council members that digital billboards distract motorists and cause light pollution. She encouraged them to extend the moratorium.
“It (billboards) doesn’t honor the wishes of the people who voted 15 years ago,” Wray said.
Councilwoman Jenny Breckhus said there’s the potential for dozens of billboard applications to be submitted to the city depending on what the court decides, and if it decides before this moratorium expires.
“How will we uphold this moratorium if it comes under assault?” she asked.
Brekhus said area business owners have told her that billboard owners have approached them about renewing their billboard leases and going digital.
Claudia Hanson, city planning manager, said the outcome of the lawsuit would be discussed with council members. They could then discuss what future action to take on the matter.