• Lamar Wins Again in Pittsburgh



    Lamar Advertising won again in Pittsburgh, fending off the city’s relentless attack on its iconic sign overlooking Pittsburgh from Mount Washington.

    Bottom line:

    • An appeals court said Lamar can keep the sign
    • The mayor wants to appeal to Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court or seek reconsideration
    • The latest court ruling (August 29) makes several important points, which Insider will highlight.

    The dispute

    In 2014, Lamar applied to the city to modernize the sign by renovating its face, replacing electronics, and repairing the structure.

    In 2016, while the application was pending, Lamar placed a vinyl on top of neon letters “to protect the structure and to continue its operation” as an outdoor advertising sign. The vinyl displayed an ad for Sprint. The city issued a violation notice June 13, 2016.

    Lamar filed a protest, losing the zoning hearing but winning twice in court.  On August 29, a three-judge panel of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania upheld the trial court, in favor of Lamar.

    Important points

    • The city ordinance prohibits enlargement of nonconforming signs. Lamar didn’t make the structure bigger. If the advertising copy was larger than previously, that does not constitute “enlargement,” the court said.
    • Change of use. Displaying the time and public service messages (after Bayer ceased advertising in 2014) does not mean Lamar changed the use from advertising to non-advertising.
    • Putting a vinyl ad over an electronic sign does not prove abandonment.  “Lamar always intended to continue its nonconforming use of the sign as an electronic advertising sign,” the court said.

    Jim Vlasach of Lamar-Pittsburgh was a trial witness. Lamar is represented by Jonathan Kamin, Pittsburgh.

    Vlasach said this case underscores the importance of company files and records.

    Insider also asked Richard Rothfelder of Rothfelder & Falick to weigh in with his thoughts.

    Lamar has suffered, and successfully defeated, obviously desperate and ill-conceived efforts by Pittsburgh officials to eliminate its iconic 7,200 SF electronic sign overlooking downtown since the 1920s. Some of the ridiculous violations alleged by the City include illegally converting the sign from electronic to static, enlarging the sign by wrapping it with vinyl, and abandoning the sign after paying $72,000 in permit application fees. The Trial and Appellate Courts had little difficulty denying all of the City’s frivolous claims, and ruling in favor of Lamar and salvaging the sign. I just hope that Lamar can collect its attorneys fees from the City as well.






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