Clear Channel Outdoor says New Rochelle is illegally forcing it to remove billboards, threatening excessive fines and awarding its locations to a competitor in the culmination of a two-decade campaign against the advertising company.
Back in 1996 the city banned billboards, but Universal Outdoor Holdings, a company that Clear Channel later acquired sued in federal court, challenging the constitutionality of the law. The city and the billboard companies settled in 2000. The advertising companies could build up to nine new billboards along I-95 and they agreed to remove “certain billboards.” The city exempted the remaining signs and the newly authorized signs from billboard regulations until Dec. 31, 2020.
In 2001, New Rochelle repealed its total ban on billboards but declared that signs in existence on March 20, 2001, shall be removed before the end of 2020. The law does not apply to billboards erected after March 20, 2001, according to Clear Channel, including five of its six structures located along I-95.
Then in 2016, the city solicited proposals to build nine new billboards along I-95, for a share of the revenue and in exchange for an exclusive right to operate outdoor advertising in the city. The City even indicated the winner could use existing billboards, including Clear Channel’s, if the owners agreed to sell.
According to a complaint filed by Clear Channel, a competing company won the contract, promising to pay $100,000, $225,000 for each digital billboard face, $75,000 for each static billboard face, and 50% of gross revenue to the City.
In September of this year. the New Rochelle commissioner of development informed Clear Channel they would need to remove their structures by December 31, the date from the 2000 settlement. Also in September, the city council amended the billboard ordinance imposing fines on advertisements that are still posted after Dec. 31. Fines begin at $250 a day and by year two escalate to $10,000 a day. They apply both to the billboard company and to property owners who lease the land for the structures.
Clear Channel is asking the court to stop the city from ordering the removal of billboards unless it pays fair market value for the structures, and from imposing fines for not removing the billboards.
You can read more on the story on the Westchester and Fairfield County Business Journals.