Update: Billboard company’s suit against city can proceed

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The company forced to remove a controversial billboard in the Geist area can proceed with its lawsuit against the city of Indianapolis, a Marion Superior Court judge has ruled.

Judge Michael D. Keele on Friday sided with Indianapolis-based Geft Outdoor LLC in denying the city’s motion to dismiss the suit.

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.

“We are very pleased with the judge's decision,” Lee said via e-mail. “This is a win for the Fifth Amendment, all small business owners and every private property owner in Marion County."

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.

Geft’s suit names the city and its Department of Code Enforcement, Department of Metropolitan Development and Board of Zoning Appeals.

A trial date has not been set.

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