Judge upholds city's billboard ordinance

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Pittsburgh's new billboard ordinance was "validly enacted," a judge has ruled, rejecting a billboard company's claim that last-minute modifications to the legislation required a public hearing.

Lamar Advertising sued the city in January, claiming that the ordinance, enacted in December, was part of council's mistreatment of the billboard industry.

The ordinance, which set requirements for the size, location and brightness of electronic billboards, became law without the signature of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

Council discussed the legislation for about four years but made so many changes in the run-up to the Dec. 19 final vote that Lamar attorney Jonathan Kamin argued that certain vetting procedures, including a public hearing, should have been repeated.

He said the omission of those steps violated state law.

The city argued that "the changes were not significant enough" to warrant those steps. In a decision Friday, Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Joseph James agreed.

"I'm very pleased that the ordinance was found to be legal," city council President Darlene Harris said.

City solicitor Daniel Regan said he had not yet reviewed the decision. Mr. Kamin couldn't be reached Monday for comment.

Citing the city's previous moratoriums on new billboards, Lamar claimed that December's ordinance was part of the city's campaign to "limit and infringe upon the rights of commercial businesses and consumers who use outdoor media." Council members said they wanted to prevent an electronic clutter of city neighborhoods.

Under the final bill, billboard images may change once every 30 seconds. That was down from eight times a minute in an earlier version of the bill. The final bill also reduced daytime and nighttime brightness levels.

Judge James said the changes did not change the purpose of the bill and, partly for that reason, were not significant enough to warrant another public hearing.

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Joe Smydo: jsmydo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1548.


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