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Monday, March 2, 2020

Court Upholds Village's Billboard Regulations

Last week, the Illinois Appellate Court ruled in favor of the Village of Gilberts in a lawsuit challenging the Village's billboard regulations. WC Media v. Village of Gilberts, 2020 IL App (2d) 190250

In 2017, WC Media filed a lawsuit against the Village to challenge its billboard ban in its zoning ordinance. While litigation was pending, the Village amended its zoning ordinance to allow billboards, but restricted the size, location, and illumination of these signs. WC Media filed an amended complaint, claiming the Village's size restrictions were an "effective ban" on billboards which the Village, as a non-home rule municipality, had no authority to adopt. The Village filed a motion to dismiss the case, arguing that state statute (specifically, the Highway Advertising Control Act of 1971) expressly authorizes municipalities to regulate billboards and that this authority had been upheld in a number of Illinois appellate decisions. The circuit court dismissed the case, and WC Media appealed.

The appellate court first rejected WC Media's argument that the Village's billboard regulations were an "effective ban" on billboards, finding that the regulations permit billboards but restrict the size of these signs, which it had the authority to do under state law. Second, the court acknowledged that similar arguments had been made in previous cases to challenge municipal authority, and courts had upheld a non-home rule municipality's authority to restrict the size of billboards. The appellate court rejected WC Media's argument that the Village's restrictions were not constistent with "customary use" (language in the statute), finding that the statutory customary use requirement is violated only when a municipality's sign restrictions exceed the statutory regulations - here, the Village's size restrictions were stricter than state law. Finally, the appellate court found that whether an advertiser finds it commercially advantageous to install a sign that complies with municipal restrictions is irrelevant in determining whether those restrictions are valid under state law. In sum, the appellate court found that WC Media's challenge to the Village's billboard regulations was properly dismissed.

Disclaimer: Ancel Glink represented the Village in this case.


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