Lamar Advertising files suit in western Pa. over Pittsburgh's billboard ordinance

Jon Campisi Jan. 23, 2012, 7:06am

A company billed as one of the nation’s largest billboard advertisers has filed a lawsuit against the City of Pittsburgh in state court in western Pennsylvania, contending the municipality’s ordinance restricting the size and scope of billboards unfairly punishes the outdoor advertising industry.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Friday that Louisiana-based Lamar Advertising Co. filed suit Jan. 19 at the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas against the city over the ordinance City Council passed late last year that regulates things such as the size, location and features of electronic billboards.

A copy of the actual complaint did not appear to be immediately available on the court’s website, but according to the newspaper, the lawsuit alleges that Pittsburgh officials are trying to “punish the outdoor advertising industry” through its legislation.

The lawsuit also claims that the ordinance infringes on constitutionally protected free speech and that its restrictions on brightness and image rotation are “substantially below industry standards,” according to the Post-Gazette.

The newspaper also reported that the civil action complains that the local law creates different classifications of signs, setting different standards for each, an example being the billboards located in a “Special Signage Design Zoning District,” which don’t have to adhere to daytime brightness limits imposed on billboards in other locations.

The Post-Gazette quoted Lamar Advertising attorney Jonathan Kamin as saying he had attended many of the City Council meetings prior to the ordinance’s passage, and warned elected officials that the bill had legal issues.

Lamar also claims that the city changed the bill so many times in the weeks prior to its eventual passage, that the issue should have been given another public hearing before it came up for a vote, the paper reported.

Another newspaper article, this one published Friday by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, quoted Pittsburgh City Councilman Patrick Dowd as saying that the “bill was a compromise. Lamar was involved with this. None of us got what we wanted, including me.”

Mike Dawida, executive director of the advocacy group Scenic Pittsburgh, told the Tribune-Review that he felt Lamar’s claims were not accurate.

“They are just the kind of thing that industry does across the country to try to win their battle,” he was quoted as saying.

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