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Thread: Mistake by zoning official and sign code examples

  1. #1
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    Mistake by zoning official and sign code examples

    Two questions.

    First, if the zoning official makes a mistake and approves a sign that does not comply with the sign ordinance, does the sign get to stay?

    Secondly, I need some sign code language that amoritizes non-conforming signs and allows for their removal so they are not grandfathered forever.

    Help!
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

  2. #2
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    The answer to the first is a no, but do you want the legal and financial and media attention of doing it wrong? Depending on how bad it is, you may want to do an administrative variance to legalize it or hopefully the owner is sensible and you can work something out (ie you pay for a new base, he moves sign)
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    There's plenty of case law that says no, you can order the removal. Our state has a law that adds a kicker - the municipality can be responsible for the costs incurred by the applicant.

    On the second one, our State has case law prohibiting sign amortization. Kind of. You can still do it, but the amortization doesnt reflect depreciating value over time. The removal is a compensible taking. Therefore, I know of no good examples to priovide you, sorry.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I'm sure I have some information in my ridiculously large collection of ordinances and reference material (two code re-writes and a third one looming when I walked away). PM me your e-mail and I will try to dig some up.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  5. #5
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    it also depends on how your state or local ordinance addresses statute of limitations

    I can send you language on sunsetting signs, just pm me your email - you have to prepared timewise and budget wise to follow through with it, though -

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by luckless pedestrian
    it also depends on how your state or local ordinance addresses statute of limitations

    I can send you language on sunsetting signs, just pm me your email - you have to prepared timewise and budget wise to follow through with it, though -
    I'd like to see this as well. I talked them into rewriting our sign ordinance, but the City attorney said we are stuck with the non-conforming signs. He may be right, but I would still like to show him what others have done. We have several 50' tall billboards that went up before the sign ordinance was written. That is what prompted the ordinance. They are on 99 year leases. I'll PM you my e-mail.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Otis's avatar
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    Citizens for a Scenic Florida has a good bit of materials on amortization. Look under their Billboards topic.

    Here is what the City of Lake Oswego, Oregon enacted in 1994 when they decided to do away with pole signs:

    5. All non-conforming pole signs shall be altered to conform to the requirements of this chapter by May 21, 2004.

    Pretty simple. Ten years and the sign has to be gone or converted to some other type of sign (such as a monument sign) that conforms.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian CDT's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Chet
    On the second one, our State has case law prohibiting sign amortization. Kind of. You can still do it, but the amortization doesnt reflect depreciating value over time. The removal is a compensible taking. Therefore, I know of no good examples to priovide you, sorry.
    I was wondering about this too because we have language in our Ord. that sunsets non-conforming signs. I need to get a legal opinion before we start moving forward on this one. It ends in 4 years. We don't regulate content, just size and type. Is that still a taking? I would assume yes. Do we just have to compensate?

    Our sunset clause "within any zoning district, all on-premises (non-conforming) signage must comply fully with the provisions of this chapter, unless otherwise prohibited, within 15 years of the effective date of this capter"

    I think our state statutes are silent but I think case law has been tested here.


    And no, an error by a building official doesn't automatically mean they get to keep it. Usually there's some blanket CYA language in their code. (in my area anyway)

  9. #9
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Illinois sign law

    Savematton,

    Get a hold of Schaumburg, IL. They required all signs in the city to be reduced in height to less than 15ft around Woodfield Mall (Golf and Higgins corridors) in the early 1990s.

    Peoria has a amoritization period of 7 years from the date we notice them that their sign is not legal. Have we applied it? No.

    We also have a section of our code that requires signs to be brought into compliance if the proposed change to the sign exceeds 50% of the replacement cost of the sign or if a change/expansion of use occurs on the property.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by boiker
    Savematton,

    Get a hold of Schaumburg, IL. They required all signs in the city to be reduced in height to less than 15ft around Woodfield Mall (Golf and Higgins corridors) in the early 1990s.

    Peoria has a amoritization period of 7 years from the date we notice them that their sign is not legal. Have we applied it? No.

    We also have a section of our code that requires signs to be brought into compliance if the proposed change to the sign exceeds 50% of the replacement cost of the sign or if a change/expansion of use occurs on the property.
    Our problem is with billboards, not business signs. I believe this is what the City Attorney is basing his statements on.
    Illinois’ Second District Appellate Court handed down a decision recently with substantial implications for the outdoor advertising industry. In City of Oakbrook Terrace v. Suburban Bank and Trust Companyi, the Court held that the City’s ordinance imposing size and height restrictions on billboard signs, with a two-year amortization period for nonconforming signs, violated Illinois’ Eminent Domain Act (the Act) by failing to provide “just compensation” to billboard owners.
    Last edited by noottamevas; 23 Jun 2006 at 11:59 AM.

  11. #11
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    Regulating size and type...

    Quote Originally posted by CDT
    I was wondering about this too because we have language in our Ord. that sunsets non-conforming signs. I need to get a legal opinion before we start moving forward on this one. It ends in 4 years. We don't regulate content, just size and type. Is that still a taking? I would assume yes. Do we just have to compensate?
    You are free to regulate size and type, the 9th US District Court of Appeals, recently upheld the City of Lake Oswego, OR sign regulations regarding that exact issue... a property owner had a nonconforming sign, made a change to the plastic panels on the front (interior lit sign) and the city said that was a change to the sign itself, not the message. We can't regulate content...that darn first amendment You don't have to compensate if they change the nonconformity and are forced to conform...also if you try and grandfather after a change to the nonconforming sign it again raises constitutional issues ie. equal protection.

  12. #12
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    Now that I have a little time I will tell this story. In March of 2005, a sign company came to the building official reqesting that he sign off on a Iowa DOT permit form. This form has a line that says "I, the zoning official from city of blank, hereby certify that the above referenced sign meets all zoning regulations. He signed it. Under our code, the company also needed to get a sign permit from the city. One day a billboard appears, no city permit was obtained. It is much larger than our code allows, but the same as described on the DOT permit application.

    My choices are:

    Let it stand because my guy screwed up

    Order it down ( I have done this, but they are challenging it. They claim that thought they had all of the permits required)

    Comprimise and give them 10 years and then take it down.

    Our attorney says if it goes to court we have a 50/50 chance of winning and estimated cost is 20-30K

    The kicker is we have a sign company in town who is screaming bloody murder.

    What would you do?
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by giff57

    Our attorney says if it goes to court we have a 50/50 chance of winning and estimated cost is 20-30K

    The kicker is we have a sign company in town who is screaming bloody murder.

    What would you do?
    I'd reluctantly bite the bullet and litigiate.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Plus Salmissra's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Chet
    I'd reluctantly bite the bullet and litigiate.
    I'd do the same. The form that your guy signed is not a sign permit in and of itself.

    Move forward with prosecuting, and we'll keep our fingers crossed for you.
    "We do not need any other Tutankhamun's tomb with all its treasures. We need context. We need understanding. We need knowledge of historical events to tie them together. We don't know much. Of course we know a lot, but it is context that's missing, not treasures." - Werner Herzog, in Archaeology, March/April 2011

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