(CN) – Pittsburgh’s zoning board did not violate a company’s free speech rights by refusing to let it rename its buildings the “wehirenurses.com building” and “palegalhelp.com,” the 3rd Circuit ruled.
Upholding a lower court’s ruling, the federal appeals court in Philadelphia held that Melrose Inc.’s proposed “identification signs” on several buildings failed to meet the criteria for a narrow exception to the zoning board’s ban on advertising signs.
Melrose argued that although the have an “advertising component,” they “promote public order” by providing information about specific buildings.
The zoning board did not agree and rejected the company’s applications to change the names of the buildings.
Melrose challenged the board’s decision in federal court, arguing that it violated the company’s constitutional rights to free speech and equal protection.
The district court rejected these claims, saying the board had applied a legal restriction on commercial speech.
On appeal, Melrose pointed out that the board had made an exception for Heinz Field, the home of the Pittsburgh Steelers and a sports complex whose name is clearly also an advertisement.
But the three-judge panel was not convinced, finding that Melrose failed to meet the criteria for a similar exception.
“Melrose has clearly failed to establish that it is similarly situated to those entities whose signs have been approved,” Judge Julio Fuentes wrote. “Melrose’s sign applications simply fail to satisfy the criteria outlined by the Zoning Board for determining whether a sign with advertising aspects can still properly be classified as an Identification Sign.”