Bill Would Restrict Municipalities' Ability to Regulate Billboards

Bill Would Restrict Municipalities' Ability to Regulate Billboards

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Senate Majority Leader Michael Waddoups is sponsoring legislation to reduce local governments' regulation of billboards.

"Somebody's got to answer for this," Salt Lake County Councilman Jim Bradley said.

"I can't believe Sen. Waddoups would carry the water of the Reagan Outdoor Co. like this," he said, referring to the state's largest billboard company, which is a major political contributor.

The bill sponsored by Waddoups, R-West Jordan, would extend the time a local billboard building permit is valid, restrict the ability of localities to remove billboards without providing compensation and would require localities to allow billboard companies to relocate nonconforming billboards if they are allowed to be rebuilt.

The bill was drafted after Reagan lobbyists approached Waddoups. He said that he agreed with their proposals because of an imbalance with the way local governments can condemn the signs.

Localities now are allowed to remove a billboard, without compensating the billboard company, if the company lied in its application or if the billboard is unsafe, in disrepair or abandoned. Waddoups' bill removes the false application provision and heightens the evidence standard by which the billboard's status is judged.

"It's clearly a ratcheting down of local authority," said Karl Hendrickson of the Salt Lake County Attorney's Office.

"It's an end-around us," Salt Lake County Councilman Russell Skousen said. "This ties our hands."

Waddoups' bill encroaches on planning and zoning authority, "the reason local governments exist," Bradley said.

Lincoln Shurtz, a legislative analyst with the Utah League of Cities and Towns, said he is trying to soften some of the bill's provisions. It is now in the Senate Business and Labor Committee.

The Salt Lake County Council passed a resolution condemning the bill. In response to a suggestion that the council recommend the bill be changed, Bradley said, "Change it? How can you change a bill this bad?"

Another Waddoups bill would require tax assessments of billboards not take into account their value as advertising vehicles. That bill is now before the entire Senate.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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