In a case that we’ve reported on previously, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals held last week that the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s rules pertaining to billboard permitting violate the First Amendment. The court’s decision is yet another in a string of decisions from around the country making it more difficult for government to restrict the proliferation of off-premises signage.
To refresh our readers’ memory, Pennsylvania regulates billboards under its Outdoor Advertising Control Act of 1971. That law prohibits the placement of billboards within 500 feet of a highway interchange or rest area, with an exception for official signs or on-premises “for sale or lease” signs. The law also requires that a billboard advertiser obtain a permit from the state’s transportation department, but does not set forth a timeframe for such a permit to be processed.
Adams Outdoor, a billboard company, sought to install a billboard in Hanover Township, Pennsylvania. After processing the permit application for over a year, the state’s transportation department eventually denied the permit on the grounds that the sign violated the interchange restriction. Adams challenged the interchange restriction and permitting procedures under the First Amendment, and also claimed that the billboard law was unconstitutionally vague.