Issues: First Amendment free speech rights; Unlawful prior restraint on commercial speech; Township’s refusal to allow plaintiff to go forward with billboard construction along a state highway on the basis of later-enacted ordinances; Michigan’s Highway Advertising Act (MHAA); Whether plaintiff’s claims were ripe for review; Williamson County Reg’l Planning Comm’n v. Hamilton Bank of Johnson City
Court: U.S. District Court Eastern District of Michigan
Case Name: Lamar Adver. Co. v. Township of Elmira
e-Journal Number: 24114
Since plaintiff satisfied all the requirements of the applicable laws in place when it applied for permission to erect the billboard at issue, defendant-township’s refusal to permit plaintiff to go forward with construction of the billboard along a state highway on the basis of the township’s subsequently enacted ordinance constituted an unlawful prior restraint of commercial speech.
Plaintiff, as part of its outdoor advertising business, builds billboards on locations it leases or owns and then charges advertisers a fee for displaying commercial and noncommercial messages on its billboards.
When plaintiff applied for permits to construct the billboard, only the Michigan Department of Transportation had jurisdiction to regulate the area where the billboard was to be located — the township had not yet enacted an ordinance under the MHAA.
The court concluded it was plain from the undisputed facts plaintiff’s application should have been granted under the rules in effect as of its application date and the township deprived plaintiff of its First Amendment rights by denying plaintiff a permit based on an improper interpretation of the zoning ordinance. The law in effect when plaintiff filed its applications did not disallow construction of a billboard at the location in question.
Plaintiff was granted summary judgment.