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April 19, 2014

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county commission:

Ordinance would let billboards go digital

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Richard Brian

Between the exits for Warm Springs and Sunset roads, cars whiz past a digital billboard along Interstate 215.

Click to enlarge photo

Between the exits for Warm Springs and Sunset roads, cars whiz past a digital billboard along Interstate 215.

A proposed ordinance may soon shed new light on advertising options in Clark County.

Clark County Commissioners are scheduled Wednesday to host a public hearing and take action on a proposed change to code that would allow existing billboards in county commercial areas to go digital.

The billboards that have already gone digital were converted despite the code's current prohibition against making any alterations to the signs.

In drafting the proposed changes to code, county officials addressed concerns expressed by residents and officials.

The threat of the boards becoming driving distractions and their proximity to residential homes were two issues brought up during the drafting process.

County Principal Planner Jennifer Ammerman said a number of guidelines were put in place to try and ensure that the digitally converted billboards won't have any more of an impact than their less technologically advanced counterparts.

The proposal would regulate the ambience levels of the converted billboards as well as prohibit them from being allowed to imitate or simulate traffic control devices.

Additionally, billboards must be obscured from view of single family residential developments in order to be allowed to be converted.

At the Wednesday meeting, the commissioners are to consider the original proposed ordinance in addition to a revised version.

The ordinances differ mainly in that they require different amounts of money be charged for a conversion fee and for a fine that will be assessed to owners of billboards that have already been converted.

The original proposal calls for a $2,500 conversion fee and a $50,000 fine.

The revised proposal calls for a $10,000 conversion fee and a $10,000 fine.

Fines would be assessed per converted billboard.

County Zoning Administrator Nancy Lipski said the revised dollar amounts were the result of a discussion sparked by a request made by a representative of the outdoor advertising industry.

Ammerman said the fines were included in the ordinance because aside from the conversion being prohibited by county code, anytime an upgrade of electrical service takes place a permit is needed.

Since the conversion was not allowed by county code, no permits were granted.

Attorney Jennifer Lazovich, who represents Lamar and Olympia outdoor advertising, said the industry is still evaluating whether the current proposed fee and fine are viewed as fair and reasonable.

Those costs would be in addition to the actual physical conversion of a sign, which Lamar Outdoor Advertising Vice President and General Manager Christopher Prickett said can run as high as a half-million dollars.

Lamar owns about 400 structures in the Las Vegas area, of which only about 20 have been converted, he said.

Digital billboards have been mainstream for about five years now, he said. And this is a case of the county codes catching up to the technology.

Prickett said the digital technology is useful in a number of ways.

One of the advantages to going digital is that it allows for messages to be transmitted instantly, he said.

"This product now puts us in the same category of radio and television," he said.

Additionally, the digital billboards can be used to aid public safety employees.

Lamar has used its digital billboards in the past to disseminate information and photos related to murder suspects and missing children, he said.

"The goal is to assist the community," he said.

Lazovich said it is important to note that this ordinance does not permit the construction of new billboards, nor does it alter the size of existing structures.

"They don't get any taller. They don't get bigger and you don't get any new ones," she said.

Ashley Livingston can be reached at 990-8925 or [email protected].

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