Outfront Media, LLC v. Salt Lake City

November 14, 2017

Utah Supreme Court

October 23, 2017

2017 UT 74 (Click for text of opinion)

The Utah Supreme Court upheld Salt Lake City’s (“Salt Lake” or the “City”) decision to deny Outfront Media’s (“CBS”) request to relocate its billboard.

CBS applied to relocate its billboard to an adjacent lot along I-15 in Salt Lake because its ground lease was about to expire. The City denied its request and CBS demolished its billboard to avoid remaining on the land after the lease expiration. CBS appealed Salt Lake’s decision to a land use hearing officer who upheld the City’s decision. CBS then appealed the decision to district court. The district court likewise upheld Salt Lake’s decision.

On appeal to the Utah Supreme Court, CBS argued that the City’s decision to deny its relocation request illegally used the power of eminent domain because the City did not comply with the required eminent domain procedures set forth in Utah law, including having the city council authorize the acquisition of the sign by eminent domain. CBS noted under UCA § 10-9a-513, a city is “considered to have initiated the acquisition of a billboard structure by eminent domain” if it denies a relocation request that meets certain spacing requirements. In addition, CBS argued Salt Lake’s decision to deny its relocation request violated the City’s billboard ordinance, and was arbitrary and capricious because the mayor acted to reduce the number of billboards in Salt Lake without a written policy to do so.

The Utah Supreme Court upheld the district court’s decision concluding that the City did not violate the law with its decision denying CBS’s billboard relocation request because (1) relocation denials are “considered” to be acquisitions of a billboard by eminent domain only for compensation purposes and do not trigger any requirement to follow the formal procedures of eminent domain; (2) there was no justification in the plain meaning of the City’s billboard ordinance for CBS’s conclusion that the decision violated this ordinance; and (3) there was substantial evidence in the record that Salt Lake’s mayor had a goal of reducing billboards in the City.