Local News

Push for digital billboards divides Durham

Posted June 23, 2010

— An advertising company's desire to erect digital billboards in Durham has the sheriff and some neighborhood groups at odds.

Fairway Outdoor Advertising wants to move some billboards and upgrade some to transmit digital messages and is seeking approval from the City Council and the county Board of Commissioners.

The Durham Chamber of Commerce and the local business community back the move, as does Durham County Sheriff Worth Hill.

"We are not trying to get in the politics of this. We are just being selfish that, hey, this is how it would help us," Hill said Wednesday.

Digital billboards could be used for Amber Alerts and Silver Alerts, Crime Stoppers announcements or traffic alerts, he said.

Fairway officials have pledged that they would post one public service announcement for every six other messages on digital billboards, if Durham allows the new signs.

"These billboards will give me another tool to help me carry out my mission for this community," Hill said.

Police Chief Jose Lopez said he is neutral about the idea of digital billboards to help officers. He said it is up to local residents to decide if they want them, not the police department.

A survey by the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau has found that most residents support Durham's current billboard ordinance, which doesn't include digital billboards.

"I think they are distracting, I think they are potentially dangerous, and we don't need them on our roadways," said John Schelp, president of the Old West Durham Neighborhood Association.

Schelp said the state Department of Transportation already has signs on local highways where law enforcement can post information about wrecks or Amber Alerts.

"You don't have to wait through advertisements for cigar outlets and beer before you get to an Amber Alert," he said, adding that Fairway is using a public safety angle to win support for the new billboards.

"One of their tactics is to get local support from sheriffs to support their ordinances," he said.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • kevboom Jun 24, 2010

    Keep the signs out! The Triangle is relatively devoid of billboards and should remain that way. No one wants this area to turn into another I-95 with 4 billboards every mile advertising trash no one needs like South of the Border. Progressive communities have STRONG sign laws and stick to them. Businesses can advertise on major roadways with the blue informational signs provided by the DOT.

  • meh2 Jun 24, 2010

    One message out of 6 would be a PSA? Sounds like a shakedown to me.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Jun 24, 2010

    There is no real division on this. Almost no one wants these signs. They're visual trash.

    The "contribution" these out of state sign companies make is a pitiful property tax of about $3000/year. Wow!...what a cash cow for Durham! What altruism. Let's give them the key to the city. (major sarcasm)

    BUT, if you ever try to take a billboard down...HOLY TOLEDO! You see...there's a special little legal loophole, only for these people (how did that happen?!), and they get ALL potential lost revenue for the expected life of the sign...MILLIONS of dollars!

    So, these sneaky, special-rights-for-me-but-no-one-else companies are trying to woo a few public figures by bribing them with a few seconds of air time for their favorite causes. It's a lobbyist bribe.

    Keep saying "NO!" to these people. For the others, go to Vegas if you want to see huge, in-yo-face flashing signs.

  • kikinc Jun 24, 2010

    Durham gets such a bad rap. I was strictly a Raleigh girl until I started working in Durham. I like it more now! Granted, there are parts I don't go into, but there are parts of Raleigh I don't go into, either. There are parts of Holly Springs and Cary I don't go into. Every town has them.

  • 68_polara Jun 24, 2010

    Police beatings in Durham? When has this ever occurred? The police department is so underfunded you can't even get them to show up to beat the criminals.

  • Justin T. Jun 24, 2010

    The new digital billboards could quickly notify residents of the latest police beatings and random gunplay... then refresh with advertisements for gun shops. If I were in charge there would be nothing displayed except real estate deals in other, safer cities.