(CN) – A St. Paul ordinance barring signs from having protruding words or graphics is unenforceable, the 8th Circuit ruled, because the city council “failed to articulate any rational basis” for the ban on billboard extensions.
The ruling is a victory for Clear Channel Outdoor, a Delaware company with 390 billboards in St. Paul.
For several years, Clear Channel regularly granted its customers temporary billboard extensions that gave them greater creative freedom over the signs.
But as complaints about the extensions mounted, a local group called Scenic St. Paul suggested banning billboard extensions altogether, instead of charging a permit fee for each extension, as the city’s zoning committee had discussed.
The ordinance, adopted by unanimous vote in March 2006, stated, “No sign shall be enlarged or altered in a way which increases its nonconformity. Billboard extensions are not permitted.”
In its federal lawsuit, Clear Channel argued that the ban was an unconstitutional and unreasonable use of police power, and that it violated the company’s due process and equal protection rights.
The federal judge agreed and blocked the city from enforcing the ordinance, triggering the city to appeal. St. Paul argued that the ban promotes the health, safety and general welfare of its citizens in several ways, even if those reasons weren’t articulated at city council meetings.
But the federal appeals court in St. Louis declined to revive the ordinance, saying the lower court “correctly applied Minnesota law in holding that (the ban) is unenforceable.”