October 24, 1990|By Patrick Gilbert | Patrick Gilbert,Evening Sun Staff

A city Circuit Court judge today gave the Schmoke administration an initial victory in its efforts to rid the city of illegal advertising billboards.

Judge Joseph H.H. Kaplan ordered Boisclair Advertising Inc. to remove more than 1,300 billboards that the city contended violated zoning laws. The judge said this must be accomplished within 60 days and at Boisclair's expense.

Kaplan ordered Boisclair to remove signs in zoning districts where they are expressly prohibited by zoning laws. He also ordered the removal of signs in zoning districts where they are allowed but where the firm failed to obtain the proper permits.

The judge dismissed Boisclair's claim that efforts by the city to force the removal of its signs violated its constitutional rights by depriving the company of its property without just compensation.

Kaplan also ruled against the advertising company's contention that the city action would interfere with Boisclair's contracts with owners of property where the signs are erected.

"We will definitely appeal Kaplan's order," Boisclair President James A. Eatrides said today.

City Council President Mary Pat Clarke said she has asked the city law department to go back to court to get a ruling on whether the city can remove the signs during Boisclair's appeal.

"I'm extremely pleased about this ruling," added Clarke.

The disputed signs are called junior billboards because their size of 50 square feet is significantly smaller than the regular billboards of 240 to 670 square feet. The juniors usually are placed on the sides or fronts of businesses in predominantly black neighborhoods and advertise tobacco and alcohol.

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