More billboard owners and government agencies are reaching agreements on sign relocations and trade-offs. Both sides are looking for compromise solutions instead of digging in for a fight to the death over billboard takes. While it is not possible to solve every disagreement outside of court, the trend appears to favor negotiation over litigation.
The State of Arizona recently reached an agreement with a major national billboard company to provide a long-term lease on State owned land in exchange for the removal of signs at a new freeway interchange. Initially it appeared that the State would have to pay fair market value to compensate the sign owner for signs taken to complete a highway project. The State was willing to listen to alternative solutions, in part because government budgets are tight nationwide. The sign company owned another billboard across town that was on land owned by the State. The billboard owner proposed that they receive a long-term lease on the State-owned land in exchange for the two display faces being removed for the new interchange. After an analysis showed that the values would be equal, agreement was reached. The sign company lost two faces, but gained a long-term lease for two faces at another location. Both parties were satisfied, and the State saved a significant amount of money.
The City of Redondo Beach, California reached a similar accord with Viacom Outdoor. The City was interested in removing 17 faces in town, and Viacom was interested in obtaining new exposure on the nearby Interstate highway. CalTrans approved new permits for two signs on the freeway and the nine billboards in the city will come down. Although the agreement took more than two years to negotiate, both parties are satisfied with the result. The City achieved its goal of aesthetic improvement, and the sign company obtained billboard sites with commensurate traffic counts.
These are just two examples of the trend toward more cooperative efforts between the billboard industry and government authorities. However, the trend faces certain obstacles. The biggest hurdle in most negotiations is obtaining the requisite permits for new or modified billboards from the appropriate authorities. In most cases, new sites require permission from various levels of government ranging all the way from state agencies to neighborhood groups. Permission is often difficult to obtain because many cities and towns do not want new billboards erected within their jurisdictions under any circumstances. However, billboards are more acceptable to many people if they are located on the freeways instead of in town.
If the trend toward more cooperative agreements continues, billboard owners and condemning authorities will be able to save significant time and expense that would have been spent on litigation.