Asheville City Council passed new restrictions on digital billboards 6-0 tonight, and also endorsed prohibiting new ones entirely, though the city’s Planning and Zoning Committee will have to craft the terms a of such a ban.
With Mayor Terry Bellamy absent, all the remaining members of Council passed new rules that require more setbacks for digital billboards and forbid new ones along Merrimon Avenue and part of Sweeten Creek Road. Members of the public endorsed the new rules, asserting digital billboards were a nuisance and a potential hazard, with many pushing for a wholesale ban. Specific ire was focused on what one man called “the Merrimon monster.”
The city’s rules already cap the number of billboards allowed in the city, though owners can retire old space to build new ones. Even under a new ban, current digital billboards will still remain unless the companies that own them decide to remove them, as state law restricts municipalities’ ability to buy or eliminate current billboards. Council member Marc Hunt, claiming the potential detriments of the billboards outweighed their usefulness, also made a motion directing the planning committee to craft the exact terms of a ban on new digital billboards, which also passed 6-0. Council could vote on that measure by late May.
Council also set the city’s living wage for employees and city contracts under $200,000 at $11.35 an hour without health insurance or $9.85 an hour with insurance.