This week, a federal district court in Wisconsin ruled that Adams Outdoor Advertising’s claims that the Madison sign ordinance is unconstitutional could not survive summary judgment. The ruling in the city’s favor is further support for the proposition that Reed v. Town of Gilbert does not upset longstanding commercial speech doctrine.
The Madison sign ordinance generally prohibits billboard advertising in most areas of the city. Where they are permitted, billboards are subject to strict regulation as to setback, height, sign area, and spacing between signs. The city also operates an exchange program, whereby owners of signs that are removed due to redevelopment can “bank” their sign area and obtain a permit in another area of the city. The city also prohibits digital signs.
Beginning in 2016, Adams Outdoor sought permits for billboards in the city. It first sought to avail itself of the sign exchange program with respect to one of its signs, but the city determined that the sign was not eligible for the banking program. Adams Outdoor then submitted 26 applications to the city in 2017 seeking to modify or replace existing billboards. The city denied 25 of the 26 permits on the grounds that the sign ordinance did not permit the modifications in question. Adams Outdoor appealed 22 of the denials to the city’s Urban Design Commission, while also filing a lawsuit in federal court. After the filing of the lawsuit, the city adopted a variety of amendments to its sign ordinance, to ensure that the ordinance complied with Reed.
Continue Reading Billboard Company’s Challenge to Madison, Wisconsin Sign Code Fails