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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Mixed signals

Some "unsightly billboards" are finally going to come down in Indianapolis. I've seen them, and "big and ugly" is the only way to describe them. So I defintely won't miss them. Still, this is a little troubling:

Pinnacle's battle with the city galvanized some Indiana business leaders to side with the billboard company.
Pinnacle charged that the city retroactively passed zoning that banned the billboards, after Pinnacle already had received approval from the Indiana Department of Transportation to erect the signs on public rights-of-way that weren't zoned. They were erected along I-69 and I-465 and the inner legs of the city's interstate web.
The city contended it could still order that the billboards be taken down because they hadn't actually been erected at the time the ban was passed.
After two lower courts ruled in Pinnacle's favor, the state Supreme Court in 2005 ruled that Pinnacle shouldn't have been allowed to erect the billboards because the city zoning rule was passed in time to stop them.
Business leaders and business groups, including the Indiana Builders Association, had warned that the case could set a bad precedent by saying it's permissible for government officials to change their minds and stop construction of a developer's approved project at any time up to the point when it's actually built.

This can't be called an ex post facto law, since the city made the changes before construction actually started. And I'm not sure about "setting a bad precedent" and "sending the wrong signal" and all that. It's more about mixed signals and how difficult it can be to do business when different agencies at different levels say different things.