As a company that sells advertising space on benches in public areas, Bench Billboard Company has a long and storied litigation history against municipalities in Ohio and Kentucky. In this most recent iteration, the BBC challenged the constitutionality of Colerain Township’s (a Cincinnati suburb) restriction on signage in its right of way after the Township attempted to
remove BBC’s signs.
Noting that both the Ohio Appeals Court and the Sixth Circuit had answered virtually identical questions in two earlier BBC cases, the panel dispatched with the challenge in short order. Quoting a 2016 decision, the panel concluded that Colerain held a substantial interest in maintaining its right-of-way, restrictions on signage directly related to those purposes, and BBC enjoyed numerous other avenues for displaying its signage. The court also made the standard recitations about governments’ ability to regulate commercial signage in the interest of preserving aesthetics, addressing traffic safety, and reducing visual clutter.
BBC also raised concerns regarding Colerain’s restrictions regarding signage on private property, but the court made quick work of these too. Somewhat curiously, the panel did not follow the standard Central Hudson or intermediate scrutiny rubric for commercial or content-neutral restrictions. Instead, it upheld the township’s private property signage restrictions as applied to BBC, reasoning that Colerain had provided ample evidence of the traffic and aesthetic concerns it sought to regulate and its restrictions therefore bore a substantial relationship to health, safety, and welfare.