Court affirms decision dismissing billboard lawsuit

December 29, 2004|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals has upheld a Baltimore Circuit Court judge's dismissal of a lawsuit seeking to block the installation of billboards on 1st Mariner Arena.

The appellate court affirmed an August 2003 decision by City Circuit Judge Albert J. Matricciani Jr., who had ruled that the state courts did not have jurisdiction to hear the lawsuit. The decision was filed Monday.

Some Baltimore property owners - who objected to the large billboards on the arena, calling them an "eyesore" - had challenged the zoning change approved in 2003 by the City Council and the mayor.

Edwin F. Hale Sr., chairman of First Mariner Bancorp and owner of the Baltimore Blast indoor soccer team, sought permission to install as many as 14 billboards. He wanted to create a Times Square effect and defray the costs of owning the team, as he shares profits from the billboards with Clear Channel Outdoor.

City officials had agreed to the zoning change in exchange for Clear Channel taking down 14 other billboards around Baltimore.

A federal lawsuit filed by the property owners is pending, according to the decision written by Judge James R. Eyler.

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