McConville et al v. The City of Philadelphia et al

A Philadelphia business owner arrived to work one morning to find a billboard had crashed against the side and roof of her building, causing extensive damage.  When the sign company ignored the law and began to replace the nonconforming billboard structure, an inspector from the city’s enforcement agency issued a stop order.

But, according to the City’s Law Department, the business owner had no basis to challenge the rebuilding of the billboard because of a Settlement Agreement signed by a former City Solicitor and members of certain billboard companies. The agreement purports to “legalize” certain signs and protect them from adhering to the city’s zoning laws.

The property owner came to SCRUB for help and we recruited Attorney Charles Sweedler.  Two plaintiffs are involved but the case will impact hundreds of illegal billboards and 9 million dollars in lost license fees, as well as potential fines and penalties.  The City has had the case removed to Federal court, and now seeks to have it dismissed for lack of Federal standing.  We expect to know whether the plaintiffs will be able to successfully remand to state court this coming Monday.

Philadelphia is not the only city where the attorneys for the Outdoor Advertising Association of America and multi-national billboard companies have forged questionable agreements with Law Departments.  A judge revoked a similar agreement in Los Angeles calling it “poison”.  To read more about the settlement click here.

Article originally posted on Public Voice for Public Space.

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