Posted by: Patricia Salkin | January 25, 2008

N.C. Appeals Court Holds State Law Allowing for Relocation of Sign Preempts County Code Prohibition on Moving Nonconforming Signs

In 2001, the county amended its ordinance so that billboards are no longer permitted in the highway business (HB) district. The company, which owns a billboard erected in 1997 in the HB district, was informed in 2004 that the sign would have to be moved for widening of the highway. State Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations allow relocation of a sign within 1/100 of a mile without a permit. Without notifying the county, the company relocated the sign by 50 feet and replaced four poles. The county zoning officer and board concluded that the sign lost its nonconforming status when it was moved.             

The trial court affirmed, but the appeals court reversed. County regulation of billboards is not preempted by the Outdoor Advertising Control Act, N.C. Gen. Stat. §136-126, but the code provision that prohibits moving a nonconforming sign except to bring it into conformity prohibits that which is allowed by state law and is preempted by DOT regulations that provide that a permit for a nonconforming sign may be revoked only if it is relocated beyond 1/100 mile of its location.  

Lamar OCI South Corp. v. Stanly County Zoning Bd. of Adjustment, 650 S.E.2d 37 (9/18/2007).

The opinion can also be accessed at:http://www.aoc.state.nc.us/www/public/coa/opinions/2007/060993-1.htm  

This case is discussed on the North Carolina Appellate blog at: http://womblencappellate.blogspot.com/2007/09/in-second-preemption-case-this-week-coa.html#links  

Special thanks to the editor of Planning and Environmental Law (PEL) for bringing this case to my attention.  For more information on how to subscribe to PEL, see: http://www.planning.org/PEL/index.htm


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