Interstate Outdoor Adver., L.P. v. Zoning Hearing Bd., 39 A.3d 1019 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2012).

Ordinance was not de facto exclusionary to billboards where it permitted billboards to be no more than 25 feet tall and 50 square feet in area.
Case Details:

Applicant applied for permits to construct a two-sided, 50-foot high, 672 square-foot billboard in the Township’s Commercial District. The Township’s Zoning Officer denied the applications because off-premises signs were only permitted in another district, could be no more than 25 feet in height and 50 square feet in area, and must comply with various setback limitations.  Applicant appealed to the Zoning Hearing Board, seeking site-specific relief because it believed the sign provisions of the Zoning Ordinance created a de facto exclusion of billboards in the Township.  Generally, Applicant’s argument was that the industry standard size of billboards to be commercially viable was 672 square feet.

On appeal, the Commonwealth Court agreed with the Zoning Hearing Board and the trial court that the ordinance did not constitute a de facto exclusion of billboards due to height and area restrictions under the facts of the case.  The Commonwealth Court found that Applicant failed to meet its burden to prove that erecting a conforming sign (billboard) was economically impractical, particularly since construction costs of smaller signs would be significantly less.  In reaching its decision, the Court cited the Exeter decision (Pa. 2009) and also summarized municipal authority to zone as follows:

The zoning authority can establish rigorous objective standards in its ordinance for size, placement, materials or coloration of signs to insure that their offensiveness is minimized as much as possible.  Signage ordinances utilizing these objective standards will be upheld where they are reasonably related to the clearly permissible objectives of maintaining the aesthetics of an area and fostering public safety through preventing the distraction of passing motorists.

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