Court says Reno can amend limit on billboards

In an opinion that may have an impact on cities around the state, the Nevada Supreme Court this week ruled the Reno City Council had the right to amend the 2000 voter approved limit on the number of new billboards in town.

The voter initiative was pushed by the group Scenic Nevada and was approved by a wide margin of city voters. It stated “The construction of new off-premesis advertising displays/billboards is prohibited.”

But two years later, the city council passed two ordinances amending that initiative. The first interpreted the initiative as setting a cap on the number of billboards. The second allowed owners of existing billboards to remove them, and “bank” a receipt allowing them to relocate or build a new billboard at a later date.

Scenic Nevada sued arguing the state Constitution prohibits amendment of an initiative’s provisions for three years after its passage.

The opinion by Justice Kris Pickering agreed the three year rule applies to the city.

But the city, nine years after passage of the initiative, passed an ordinance allowing digital billboards. In that ordinance, the city re-enacted the two ordinances Scenic Nevada had challenged.

Scenic Nevada again went to court because the 2012 ordinance re-enacted those two illegal ordinances.

This week’s ruling states because the digital billboard ordinance was passed long after the three-year moratorium on amendments, it cured the problem with the original passage of those provisions.

“The 2012 Digital Ordinance was enacted with full constitutional and statutory authority,” Pickering wrote.

She concluded after the three-year period, municipalities can treat initiative-based ordinances the same as any other ordinance.

The opinion was unanimous by the seven-member court.


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