City files appeal of billboard decision


The city has filed a petition asking the Maryland Court of Appeals to reinstate an injunction requiring removal of 1,300 illegal billboards that advertise mainly alcohol and cigarettes in black neighborhoods.

In filing yesterday, the city is seeking to expedite the legal fight over the billboards and move it to the state's highest court. The billboards' owner had appealed the case to the Court of Special Appeals, the intermediate appellate court.

"There has been considerable concern, and unrest in some instances, by many of our residents because of the presence of illegal billboards," Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said.

At issue are the so-called 5-by-10-foot "junior" billboards. About 900 are in residential neighborhoods and 390 in business and industrial zones. The billboards lack proper permits.

Although a 1971 zoning law bans billboards in residential neighborhoods, it never has been enforced. Boisclair Advertising Inc., owner of the billboards, maintains that many billboards had been erected long before the zoning laws were enacted.

Boisclair appealed an Oct. 24 decision by city Circuit Court Judge Joseph H.H. Kaplan, who ordered Boisclair to remove the billboards.

Kaplan also granted the city's request for summary judgment, essentially deciding Boisclair didn't have enough of a case to merit a trial.

Kaplan ruled Boisclair must pay for removing the signs, many of them in poor, black neighborhoods. But last month, the Court of Special Appeals ruled that pending the outcome of the firm's appeal, it did not have to remove the billboards.

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