Billboard blight or billboard rights?

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Lamar BillboardUPDATE: The Metropolitan Development Commission overturned the billboard approval, and the city now is looking into whether the existing sign is legal.

The city’s planning staff is challenging a Board of Zoning Appeals decision to allow an electronic billboard at 86th Street and River Road. The zoning board approved the Lamar Advertising request by a 3-2 vote, despite an explicit countywide ban on the signs borne of concerns about driver distraction. Lamar wants to replace the western-facing portion of the sign, which now rotates three ads, with a digital display that updates every 15 seconds.

The Metropolitan Development Commission is scheduled to consider the appeal at 1 p.m. on Wednesday. To earn a variance, Lamar has to show that the move would not be injurious to public health, that it would not adversely affect nearby property values and that strict application of zoning rules would result in “practical difficulties in the use of the property.” Essentially, Lamar’s hardship argument boils down to it wants an already profitable sign to be more profitable. They also have committed to no motion or flashing. “We ought to be able to have the right to do it,” said local land-use attorney Thomas Michael Quinn, who represents Lamar. “All the surrounding counties (including Hamilton and Johnson) allow it.” Lamar is expected to file suit if the MDC overturns the variance.

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