Motion filed to delay lawsuit proceedings between Lamar Outdoor Advertising and City of Weston

Lewis

Attorneys for both parties involved in a lawsuit related to placement of billboards are seeking a new scheduling order for the proceedings.

In a motion filed Thursday, attorneys for Lamar Outdoor Advertising, the plaintiff, and the City of Weston, the defendant, look to set a scheduling conference to further delay the business’ lawsuit against the city.  Both parties want an extension of all upcoming deadlines and to continue the trial date, which is currently set for April 30, 2019.

The motion also states that both parties wish to mediate prior to expending time and money in additional briefings concerning pending cross motions for summary judgment in the case.

Lamar Outdoor Advertising filed the lawsuit in June 2017.  In August 2016, Lamar entered into a contract with the Lewis County Board of Education to lease space on school board property for the placement of a billboard.  On the same day, the City of Weston sent a letter to the Lewis County Board of Education, asking the school board to reconsider the decision to allow the placement of a billboard on the corner of Court Avenue and Third Street, court documents show.  The letter further stated, “We are extremely disheartened by the monstrous billboard that has been placed at the Ice Cream Barn and the thought of another billboard within a quarter mile is truly horrifying.”

In December 2016, the City of Weston enacted an ordinance regulating the location of billboards within city limits.  In January 2017, Lamar filed a permit with the City of Weston to place a billboard on the school board property.  That same month, the City of Weston sent a rejection of that application to Lamar based on that ordinance, according to court documents.  The relevant aspect of the ordinance was Section 4, number 10, which states, “No advertising sign display or device shall be erected, within five hundred feet of any church, school property, cemetery, public park, public reservation, public playground, or state or national forest.”

Count I of the lawsuit argues that the ordinance is an unconstitutional restriction on the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment, and that commercial speech, including advertising, is afforded protection under the First Amendment, court documents said.  The plaintiff also argues that the germane portion of the ordinance “is an improper time, place, and manner restriction on Freedom of Speech as it is not narrowly tailored in its restrictions.”  The lawsuit also states that it does not “pass constitutional muster due to the inordinate amount of places that advertising cannot be erected,” according to court documents.

Count II argues that the ordinance improperly restricts privately owned property, in that, through the defendant’s actions to beautify the city, “the ordinance not only restricts the erection of signage on property owned by the municipality, but also improperly restricts privately owned property in such a way that it amounts to a taking of private property for a government use without due process of law.”

Count III argues that since the plaintiff had a contractual agreement with the Lewis County Board of Education to place signage on the school board’s property, which benefited both parties, and the ordinance prevented the placement of said signage, the defendant tortiously interfered in the contractual arrangement between the plaintiff and the school board, which caused monetary damages to the plaintiff in the form of lost revenue.

The plaintiff is requesting that the court find that the ordinance places an improper time, place and manner restriction on protected commercial speech and order that the ordinance be repealed.  Lamar is also requesting damages for what it argues constitutes tortious contractual interference, along with court costs, attorney fees and any other damages the court deems appropriate, according to court documents.

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