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Monday, February 18, 2013

Sign Ordinance Violates Eminent Domain Act

The Village of North Pekin filed suit against the owner of three billboard signs the city claims were in violation of a 1972 ordinance prohibiting placement of signs within a certain zone.  The Third District Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s ruling that the ordinance was invalid because it was contrary to the Eminent Domain Act. Village of North Pekin v. Adams Outdoor Advertising.

North Pekin adopted an ordinance establishing that billboards could not be erected within a particular zone but provided a grace period to owners of nonconforming signs that entered into leases before May 1972, the date the law went into effect.  The sign owners could keep their signs until June 1, 1972 or until their leases expired.  The three signs at issue were not removed after the grace period ended.  The sign owner entered into three separate leases not due to expire until December 2004 through 2005. 

In 2004, the village sent notice to the sign owner that it would not re-issue annual license permits because the leases had expired and did not comply with the ordinance. They also set a deadline to remove the signs by April 2004 or face fines.  The sign owner filed suit claiming North Pekin’s ordinance was invalid because it denied compensation for owners of condemned signs, contrary to the provisions of the Eminent Domain Act.  Under that statute, owners of lawfully erected outdoor advertising have a right to just compensation if mandated to remove their signs by a municipal or local government ordinance.  The trial court agreed, holding that the ordinance provided amortization as the only remedy to the defendants. 

On appeal, the village argued the sign owner was precluded from compensation because the owner had no claim to the signs since their leases expired before the village sent notice for removal.  The Appellate Court, however, found that the sign owner held valid, unexpired leases for all three signs.  Thus, the court held that the ordinance violated the Eminent Domain Act by allowing the village to take ownership of the billboards without providing just compensation.

The court’s ruling was filed under Supreme Court Rule 23.

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf and Joy Austria, Ancel Glink.


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