Posted by: Patricia Salkin | October 8, 2017

GA Appeals Court Finds Sign Ordinance did not Apply to Interior Signs

In 2013, Monumedia, II, LLC installed three signs inside the windows of a building located in the Buckhead area of Atlanta that were visible to traffic on Peachtree Road. Soon thereafter, the City of Atlanta notified Monumedia that the signs violated City ordinances. The Georgia Department of Transportation (“DOT”) likewise informed Monumedia that the signs violated the Georgia Outdoor Advertising Control Act (“OACA”), OCGA § 32-6-70 et seq. Monumedia challenged the City’s decision before the Board of Zoning Adjustment (“BZA”), and challenged the DOT’s decision before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) from the Office of State Administrative Hearings (“OSAH”), but was unsuccessful in both cases. Monumedia then sought review of these decisions in the Superior Court of Fulton County, which affirmed the agencies’ decisions in both cases.

The court first addressed Monumedia’s challenge to the superior court’s ruling, which affirmed the DOT’s decision that the signs in question were prohibited by the OACA. The relevant section of OCGA § 32-6-71 (14) provides: “Outdoor advertising” or “sign” means any outdoor sign, light, display, device, figure, painting, drawing, message, placard, poster, billboard, or other thing which is designed, intended, or used to advertise or inform, any part of the advertising or information contents of which are visible from any place on the main traveled way of the interstate or primary highway systems.” Here, it was undisputed that Monumedia’s signs were located inside the Franco building. Thus, Monumedia’s signs were not outdoor signs that were subject to regulation or prohibition under the OACA. Accordingly, the court reversed the superior court’s ruling.

The court next addressed Monumedia’s challenge to the superior court’s ruling affirming the BZA’s decision that the signs in question were prohibited by the City’s sign ordinances. Here, the court agreed with the City’s contention that, while signs located inside a building do not require permits, those signs could still be regulated by the City. However, the court found that in this case, any language referencing interior or signs inside of windows was absent from the ordinance at issue. Furthermore, the City Council of Atlanta later amended the ordinance to specifically address signs located inside of buildings, which further supported the court’s conclusion that the ordinance did not previously prohibit signs inside of buildings. The court therefore reversed the superior court’s ruling to this claim as well.

Monumedia II, LLC v Georgia Dept. of Transportation, 2017 WL 4400731 (GA App. 10/4/2017)

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