On keeping digital billboards
out of Durham

Read the Durham Planning Department's memo: "Implementing the [billboard industry's] request would provide little economic benefit to Durham and require significant resources that the City and County lack."

There are fewer than 100 billboards in Durham, thanks to a hard won fight in the 1980s to limit this form of urban blight. Under current regulations, the remaining billboards may be maintained but not expanded or significantly upgraded.

Tom Miller, resident of Durham, presents to the InterNeighborhood Council an argument in favor of keeping the ban on new billboards in Durham.

Fairway Outdoor Advertising wants to change that. Fairway is seeking to change Durham's ordinance to allow the installation of electronic billboards.

This page represents a collection of reasons why the City and County of Durham should keep in place its current ban on new billboards, electronic or otherwise.


Prior to 1984, billboards were allowed in Durham as long as they were erected only in certain commercial and industrial zoned areas. Since nearly all of the land along major traffic corridors was zoned for commercial uses, billboards proliferated; not only on the interstates and four-lane highways, but on ordinary city commercial strips like Hillsborough Road, Roxboro Road, and even Ninth Street.

During the 1980s, to improve the city's image, and to reduce visual clutter, the city began a campaign to regulate signs, including billboards, more effectively. This effort culminated in 1984 when the city adopted new rules which, among other things, banned all billboards. Those already in place could remain, but would be taken down at the end of their useful life. Existing billboards along roadways governed by the federal Highway Beautification Act (I-85, U.S. 70 and 15-501) also became exempt; they could be removed only through condemnation.

Durham's effort was part of a nation-wide effort to conserve America's scenic landscape and to lift declining cities.

Read on (downloads pdf)



Keeping billboards out of Durham...

  • enhances Durham's environment by reducing visual clutter
  • makes the city more attractive
  • promotes pedestrian and traffic safety
  • protects residential areas from the visual imposition of giant signs
  • reduces light/visual pollution
  • reduces energy consumption -- digital billboards require far more electricity than traditional billboards
  • keeps our focus on the local economy -- digital billboards advertise mostly national products and products that cannot legally advertise elsewhere. Fairway and its rival billboard companies are not located in Durham.

Local coverage of Fairway's attempt to change the 20+ year-old ban on new (electronic or otherwise) billboards:

Durham's residents' voices

Independent's Triangulator
Bull City Rising
Dependable Erection

Check out the Indy's billboard map to find all of Durham's billboards


Political Cartoons

January 24, 2009
April 18, 2010
Click to enlarge images



Electronic billboard in Fredericksburg, VA

Local billboards

St. Paul, MN

Venice, CA
Video shot from a resident's front yard

There's much more information about electronic billboards at Scenic America