Victory claimed by inner city billboard foes

September 25, 1992|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,Staff Writer

In a major victory for community groups opposed to billboard advertising in the inner city, the city zoning board rejected yesterday applications by a Baltimore company to obtain permits for more than 80 "junior billboards" that have been posted illegally for years.

The action by the Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals to reject every application sought by Boisclair Advertising/Chesapeake Outdoor Enterprises means the billboards must come down.

The decisions by the board came at the conclusion of 10 hours of hearings spread over two days and capped a two-year battle over illegal billboard advertising in Baltimore.

"I'm ecstatic, literally ecstatic," said Hathaway Ferebee, spokeswoman for the Coalition for Beautiful Neighborhoods, which vigorously opposed the applications on the grounds that the billboards created a blight and exploited the poor by promoting the use of alcohol and tobacco. "I think it affirms that these billboards have absolutely no value in our communities," Ms. Ferebee said.

Eric Rubin, the lawyer for Boisclair/Chesapeake, said, "It's clear that [the zoning board] didn't follow the law" in rejecting the applications for the signs, which measure approximately 6 feet by 12 feet. He said the company would consider an appeal to city Circuit Court.

The rejection of the applications for the billboards -- which were among several hundred Circuit Court Judge Joseph H. H. Kaplan ruled two years ago were posted illegally -- means the signs must be removed, regardless of any appeal.

"Any billboard for which there is not a permit in hand as of the close of business on Sept. 30 must come down," Judge Kaplan said yesterday.

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