Owner of controversial Geist billboard sues city

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The company forced to remove a billboard it erected in the Geist area is now suing the city of Indianapolis for the loss of the controversial sign that many neighbors strongly opposed.

Indianapolis-based Geft Outdoor LLC filed the lawsuit Thursday in Marion Superior Court, naming the city and its Department of Code Enforcement, Department of Metropolitan Development and Board of Zoning Appeals.

The suit seeks damages that Geft owner Jeff Lee estimates at $750,000 for lost ownership of the sign, as well as others totaling about $200,000.

Lee said that he was forced to terminate the 20-year-lease agreement he had with landowner Connecticut-based Hide Realty for the sign that stood at the intersection of 79th Street and Fall Creek Road.

“To have your property rights taken away just because somebody doesn’t like it, it’s just a frightening precedence for anyone who owns land or does business in Marion County,” Lee told IBJ.

The 40-foot-tall sign went up in January and had space for three rotating messages that faced 79th Street and Fall Creek Road and one message that faced westbound 79th Street.

Geist residents quickly took issue with the sign and asked the city to revoke its permit, arguing that the billboard was erected too close to a stoplight and distracted drivers approaching the intersection. A zoning board in May voted 4-0 in favor of the request even though the sign conformed to zoning guidelines for the property.

Geft is suing the city for inverse condemnation, or when a government entity takes property without paying compensation.

An official in the city’s legal department did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment on the suit.

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