City settles with CBS on billboard construction

By: Robert Guttersohn | Royal Oak Review | Published November 14, 2013

The City Commission unanimously approved a legal settlement with CBS Outdoor Nov. 11 regarding the placement of a billboard along Coolidge Highway, near 14 Mile Road.

The settlement would allow CBS to erect the billboard, but the city would be allowed to reserve approximately 10 weeks worth of advertising on it or any other CBS Outdoor billboards throughout metro Detroit for making public service announcements.

“All in all, it’s perhaps not everything the city would have looked for, but that’s the nature of the process,” said City Attorney David Gillam.

According to the settlement, the city’s Planning Commission originally denied CBS the variance to place the double-faced, digital billboard in 2011. CBS then sued the city, claiming the standards in the city’s zoning ordinance regarding billboards were unconstitutional.

In 2012, a U.S. District Court judge sided with CBS as far as the validity of Royal Oak’s overall standards.

Gillam explained at the commission meeting that there were additional oral arguments on whether CBS Outdoor was entitled to the permit to build at the specific location.

“The city’s position throughout litigation has been that the property is subject to a conditional-use variance, that the terms and conditions of that variance prohibit the construction of the billboard on that particular piece of property,” Gillam said.

The judge ordered both sides to meet with a magistrate to work out a settlement.

Gillam announced the settlement at the Nov. 11 meeting.

In addition to the two previous parts of the settlement, CBS will not seek to place any additional billboards in Royal Oak and will not carry advertisements for liquor or “sexually oriented businesses” at the 14 Mile and Coolidge Highway location, according to the settlement. Also, CBS agreed to drop all claims for monetary damages and recouping of legal fees from the city.

Commissioner Peggy Goodwin commended the city’s attorneys for their work.

“We worked a lot of hours on this,” Goodwin said. “And I think we did do the right thing by the city in order to save us from further litigation, but also to be able to promote good public service and prevent future billboards from coming into the city.”

Calls to CBS Outdoor for comment were not returned as of press time.