LAMAR ADVERTISING OF YOUNGSTOWN, INC., AKA LAMAR OF CLEVELAND Plaintiff-Appellee
CITY OF ALLIANCE, OHIO, ET AL., Defendant-Appellants
from the Stark County Court of Common Pleas, Case No. 2016 CV
Plaintiff-Appellee R. GUY TAFT CHRISTOPHER S. HOUSTON Strauss
Troy Co., LPA JEFFREY JAKMIDES.
Defendant-Appellants WILLIAM F. MORRIS Assistant Law Director
JENNIFER L. ARNOLD Law Director.
William B. Hoffman, P.J. Hon. Patricia A. Delaney, J. Hon.
Craig R. Baldwin, J.
Appellants, City of Alliance, Board of Zoning Appeals of the
City of Alliance and William T. Hawley, Zoning Inspector for
the City of Alliance, appeal the decision of the Stark County
Court of Common Pleas reversing the decision of the appellant
Board of Zoning Appeals that ordered appellee to remove its
billboards and rescinded all stop work orders. Appellee is
Lamar Advertising of Youngstown, Inc., AKA Lamar of
AND PROCEDURAL POSTURE
In January 2016, Appellee acquired eighteen billboards
located within the City of Alliance and began working on them
as part of its normal maintenance program. Appellant Hawley
issued a "Stop Work Order followed by a letter to
appellee explaining the reason for the Order. Appellant
Hawley found that "the sign supports have been removed
at all locations and new sign face supports have been
installed" and he directed that "[a]ll of the above
referenced signs have lost their legal non-conforming status
and you are instructed to immediately remove them upon
receipt of this notice." (Exhibit 1). His letter cites
several sections of the Alliance Codified Ordinances but,
while some of the sections are italicized, the letter
provides no explanation of the application of those sections
to the facts. He concludes the letter by explaining the
appellee's right to appeal.
On July 13, 2016, appellee filed an appeal of the Zoning
Inspector's Order as well as a request for a variance
with the Board of Zoning Appeals for the City of Alliance.
The hearing of the appeal began on August 16, and was
completed on August 22, 2016. The Board of Zoning Appeals
reconvened on August 24, 2016, deliberated, and denied the
appeal and the request for a variance.
At the hearing before the Board of Zoning Appeals, the
appellants herein submitted the testimony of Roger Westfall,
Chief Building Official of the City of Alliance, and William
Hawley, Zoning Inspector.
Mr. Westfall concluded that the billboards had been
structurally altered based upon his inspection of two or
three of the billboards. He claimed that "a lot of the
cross members had been removed. All the faces had been
removed."(Transcript, 8/16/16 p.13, lines 3-5). He
drafted a letter on July 22, 2016 regarding his findings and
delivered it to the Alliance Building Department, but did not
deliver that letter, a notice of violation or a stop work
order to appellee.
Mr. Westfall did concede that he had no idea how any the
billboards were altered and he could not say if the shape or
size had been changed. Further, he was not asked and did not
testify to having any experience in the construction or
maintenance of billboards.
Appellant William T. Hawley, the City of Alliance Zoning
Inspector for fourteen years, testified on behalf of
appellants regarding his observation of the billboards, the
stop work orders he issued and the notice of violation he
delivered. Mr. Hawley has no experience building or
maintaining billboards, but he testified that he issued the
stop work order because:
the billboards were being structurally altered at that point.
And on the ones that were reinstalled the size and the shape
was changed. It was no longer a square, they're perfectly
rectangled square edged shape, it was round corners as was
previously mentioned, and one piece and not the same size.
8/16/16, p.52, lines 15-19
When questioned about the structural changes, Mr.
Hawley's responses were vague and relied upon the
building inspector's findings. The building inspector,
Mr. Westfall, admitted that he could not describe what
structural changes occurred. Consequently, the record lacks
clear evidence of the structural changes described by Mr.
Hawley in his letter of June 29, 2016 to appellee.
During cross examination Mr. Hawley conceded that the entire
sign face had been removed and that the only issue was
whether the Alliance Zoning Code permitted that change.
Q Okay. Now when you say that the -- and that's really
what was done on all eight of these billboards to the extent
the sign face was able to be replaced before you stopped them
-- is that the old sign face, the whole unit was taken off of
the supports, the structure, correct?
Q And done away with, and then a whole new sign face was
reattached to it, correct, to the structure, correct?
Q Okay. So you do agree with me that the issue comes down to
whether this building code allows Lamar as a part of normal
maintenance to change that sign face, to change it from one
sign face that was on there to ...