A national outdoor advertising company is taking the town of Ballston to court over the town’s refusal to allow an electronic digital billboard to be installed among a collection of billboards on Route 50 south of Ballston Spa.
Lamar Central Outdoor LLC filed the lawsuit in state Supreme Court in Ballston Spa on Feb. 29, alleging that the town Planning Board refusal to grant it a special permit earlier in February was “arbitrary and capricious” and a new local law regulating electronic advertising signs was directed at the company.
The Planning Board denied the special use permit after a 10-month review. The lawsuit states the local law approved on Feb. 9 “was hastily adopted by the Town Board in a deliberate attempt to target petitioner’s application.” It noted that the Planning Board acted on Feb. 3, nearly a week before the new local law was adopted.
Ballston Town Attorney James Walsh said he is still reviewing the 548-page lawsuit, but he believes all the decisions that the Town Board and Planning Board made were justified.
“We will vigorously defend the town and we believe all our decisions were justified, and we will put forward the best interests of the town in state Supreme Court,” Walsh said.
The application for a special permit to convert a billboard at Route 50 and Everson Way into a digital billboard was filed with the town a year ago by Lang Media, which was then acquired last October by Lamar.
When the Planning Board held hearings on the application, residents who live in a nearby residential neighborhood raised a number of objections to the possible brightness of the sign at night, whether it fit with the generally rural character of the area, and whether the frequency with which digital messages would could change would create a distraction for motorists.
Lamar, in its lawsuit, states that there are federally established standards for digitally lit signs, and the company’s proposal complied with all those standards.
It contends that the Planning Board delayed its decision for 10 months because it could find no legitimate grounds to turn down the application, even though that’s what board members wanted to do.
Town officials contend that the town zoning code regulates how billboards are lit from the ground, and there are no provisions in the law that allow for an internal lighted sign such as Lamar wants to install. The proposed sign would use LED lighting.
There are a collection of billboards clustered along Route 50 where it crosses the Mourning Kill. It is the only place in the town of Ballston where billboards are allowed.
Lamar is asking that a state Supreme Court judge rule that the Planning Board must evaluate their application based on the town’s previous zoning law.
No date for a hearing in the case has been set.
Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.