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1/7/2019 11:46:00 AM
Billboard company files federal lawsuit against Anderson

Ken de la Bastide, Herald Bulletin City and County Government Reporter

ANDERSON – An Indianapolis-based billboard company has filed a federal lawsuit alleging the city of Anderson’s zoning code is unconstitutional.

GEFT Outdoor, LLC filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana on Thursday.

Anderson City Attorney Tim Lanane declined to comment Friday because he had not reviewed a copy of the lawsuit. 

The lawsuit maintains the city has violated the company's First Amendment rights of free speech by denying permission to place a digital billboard along Interstate 69 in the Flagship Enterprise Center.

The lawsuit maintains the city’s sign ordinance allows the director of the Anderson Municipal Development Department to deny an improvement location permit.

It notes that the ordinance contains no objective criteria for the approval or denial of a sign permit and the decision is left to the discretion of the director.

The city’s ordinance allows off-premise freestanding signs along the interstate for Hoosier Park Racing & Casino in an area zoned for industrial use.

“The Zoning Code does not allow other types of off-premise signs to obtain a special exception,” the lawsuit reads. “GEFT cannot seek a “special exception” for its off-premise sign.” 

GEFT did obtain a permit for a digital billboard from the state on Oct. 2, 2018, and its application for an improvement location permit was denied by Anderson on Jan. 2.

GEFT previously won a similar lawsuit against the city of Indianapolis and has a lawsuit pending against the city of Westfield.

The Indianapolis Business Journal reported that GEFT's lawsuit alleged Indianapolis violated the First Amendment by having different standards for "on premises" and "off premises" signs. The on-premises signs, which advertise solely for the business in the same location as the sign, are allowed to have digital content. Off-premises signs, which advertise for a business or product located or made available elsewhere, are not allowed to have digital content.

On the same grounds, the suit objected to special regulations on signs that express noncommercial opinions or points of view, such as political, religious or ideological sentiment related to a public election.

Related Stories:
• OPINION: Billboards: information or intrusion?
• Sign ordinance changes would impact Jasper's businesses

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