160D-912. Outdoor advertising.

(a) As used in this section, the term "off-premises outdoor advertising" includes off-premises outdoor advertising visible from the main-traveled way of any road.

(b) A local government may require the removal of an off-premises outdoor advertising sign that is nonconforming under a local ordinance and may regulate the use of off-premises outdoor advertising within its planning and development regulation jurisdiction in accordance with the applicable provisions of this Chapter and subject to G.S. 136-131.1 and G.S. 136-131.2.

(c) A local government shall give written notice of its intent to require removal of off-premises outdoor advertising by sending a letter by certified mail to the last known address of the owner of the outdoor advertising and the owner of the property on which the outdoor advertising is located.

(d) No local government may enact or amend an ordinance of general applicability to require the removal of any nonconforming, lawfully erected off-premises outdoor advertising sign without the payment of monetary compensation to the owners of the off-premises outdoor advertising, except as provided below. The payment of monetary compensation is not required if:

(1) The local government and the owner of the nonconforming off-premises outdoor advertising enter into a relocation agreement pursuant to subsection (g) of this section.

(2) The local government and the owner of the nonconforming off-premises outdoor advertising enter into an agreement pursuant to subsection (k) of this section.

(3) The off-premises outdoor advertising is determined to be a public nuisance or detrimental to the health or safety of the populace.

(4) The removal is required for opening, widening, extending, or improving streets or sidewalks, or for establishing, extending, enlarging, or improving any of the public enterprises listed in G.S. 160A-311, and the local government allows the off-premises outdoor advertising to be relocated to a comparable location.

(5) The off-premises outdoor advertising is subject to removal pursuant to statutes, ordinances, or regulations generally applicable to the demolition or removal of damaged structures.

This subsection shall be construed subject to and without any reduction in the rights afforded to owners of outdoor advertising signs along interstate and federal-aid primary highways in this State as provided in Article 13 of Chapter 136 of the General Statutes.

(e) Monetary compensation is the fair market value of the off-premises outdoor advertising in place immediately prior to its removal and without consideration of the effect of the ordinance or any diminution in value caused by the ordinance requiring its removal. Monetary compensation shall be determined based on the following:

(1) The factors listed in G.S. 105-317.1(a).

(2) The listed property tax value of the property and any documents regarding value submitted to the taxing authority.

(f) If the parties are unable to reach an agreement under subsection (e) of this section on monetary compensation to be paid by the local government to the owner of the nonconforming off-premises outdoor advertising sign for its removal and the local government elects to proceed with the removal of the sign, the local government may bring an action in superior court for a determination of the monetary compensation to be paid. In determining monetary compensation, the court shall consider the factors set forth in subsection (e) of this section. Upon payment of monetary compensation for the sign, the local government shall own the sign.

(g) In lieu of paying monetary compensation, a local government may enter into an agreement with the owner of a nonconforming off-premises outdoor advertising sign to relocate and reconstruct the sign. The agreement shall include the following:

(1) Provision for relocation of the sign to a site reasonably comparable to or better than the existing location. In determining whether a location is comparable or better, the following factors shall be taken into consideration:

a. The size and format of the sign.

b. The characteristics of the proposed relocation site, including visibility, traffic count, area demographics, zoning, and any uncompensated differential in the sign owner's cost to lease the replacement site.

c. The timing of the relocation.

(2) Provision for payment by the local government of the reasonable costs of relocating and reconstructing the sign, including the following:

a. The actual cost of removing the sign.

b. The actual cost of any necessary repairs to the real property for damages caused in the removal of the sign.

c. The actual cost of installing the sign at the new location.

d. An amount of money equivalent to the income received from the lease of the sign for a period of up to 30 days if income is lost during the relocation of the sign.

(h) For the purposes of relocating and reconstructing a nonconforming off-premises outdoor advertising sign pursuant to subsection (g) of this section, a local government, consistent with the welfare and safety of the community as a whole, may adopt a resolution or adopt or modify its ordinances to provide for the issuance of a permit or other approval, including conditions as appropriate, or to provide for dimensional, spacing, setback, or use variances as it deems appropriate.

(i) If a local government has offered to enter into an agreement to relocate a nonconforming off-premises outdoor advertising sign pursuant to subsection (g) of this section and within 120 days after the initial notice by the local government the parties have not been able to agree that the site or sites offered by the local government for relocation of the sign are reasonably comparable to or better than the existing site, the parties shall enter into binding arbitration to resolve their disagreements. Unless a different method of arbitration is agreed upon by the parties, the arbitration shall be conducted by a panel of three arbitrators. Each party shall select one arbitrator, and the two arbitrators chosen by the parties shall select the third member of the panel. The American Arbitration Association rules shall apply to the arbitration unless the parties agree otherwise.

(j) If the arbitration results in a determination that the site or sites offered by the local government for relocation of the nonconforming sign are not comparable to or better than the existing site, and the local government elects to proceed with the removal of the sign, the parties shall determine the monetary compensation under subsection (e) of this section to be paid to the owner of the sign. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement regarding monetary compensation within 30 days of the receipt of the arbitrators' determination and the local government elects to proceed with the removal of the sign, then the local government may bring an action in superior court for a determination of the monetary compensation to be paid by the local government to the owner for the removal of the sign. In determining monetary compensation, the court shall consider the factors set forth in subsection (e) of this section. Upon payment of monetary compensation for the sign, the local government shall own the sign.

(k) Notwithstanding the provisions of this section, a local government and an off-premises outdoor advertising sign owner may enter into a voluntary agreement allowing for the removal of the sign after a set period of time in lieu of monetary compensation. A local government may adopt an ordinance or resolution providing for a relocation, reconstruction, or removal agreement.

(l) A local government has up to three years from the effective date of an ordinance enacted under this section to pay monetary compensation to the owner of the off-premises outdoor advertising provided the affected property remains in place until the compensation is paid.

(m) This section does not apply to any ordinance in effect on July 1, 2004. A local government may amend an ordinance in effect on July 1, 2004, to extend application of the ordinance to off-premises outdoor advertising located in territory acquired by annexation or located in the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the city. A local government may repeal or amend an ordinance in effect on July 1, 2004, so long as the amendment to the existing ordinance does not reduce the period of amortization in effect on June 19, 2020.

(n) The provisions of this section shall not be used to interpret, construe, alter, or otherwise modify the exercise of the power of eminent domain by an entity pursuant to Chapter 40A or Chapter 136 of the General Statutes.

(o) Nothing in this section shall limit a local government's authority to use amortization as a means of phasing out nonconforming uses other than off-premises outdoor advertising. (2019-111, s. 2.4; 2020-3, s. 4.33(a); 2020-25, s. 51(a)-(d).)