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Golden Isles Outdoor, LLC v. Lamar Co., LLC

Court of Appeals of Georgia

March 24, 2015

GOLDEN ISLES OUTDOOR, LLC
v.
THE LAMAR COMPANY, LLC

Page 174

Cert. applied for.

Zoning. Chatham Superior Court. Before Judge Bass.

McCorkle & Johnson, David H. Johnson, Tawny D. Mack, for appellant.

Hunter, Maclean, Exley & Dunn, Nicholas J. Laybourn, Allan C. Galis, for appellee.

OPINION

Page 175

Andrews, Presiding Judge.

The Lamar Company, LLC (" Lamar" ) filed an action in the Superior Court of Chatham County appealing a decision by the City of Savannah Zoning Board of Appeals (the " ZBA" ), which, in response to a petition filed by Lamar's outdoor advertising competitor, Golden Isles Outdoor, LLC (" Golden Isles" ), invalidated a permit that allowed Lamar to convert an existing billboard into a digital billboard. In an order on the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment, the trial court reversed the ZBA's decision. We granted Golden Isles' application for discretionary appeal, and Golden Isles now appeals, arguing that the trial court misinterpreted the digital billboard ordinance in the City of Savannah's Code of Ordinances (the " Savannah Code" ) when it determined that the ordinance does not prohibit digital billboards on collector roadways such as the one where the billboard at issue is located.[1] We conclude that the trial court erred in its construction of the ordinance and therefore reverse.

This appeal presents a question of law concerning the proper interpretation of the Savannah Code, and we apply a de novo standard of review. City of Atlanta v. Hotels.com, 289 Ga. 323, 325 (1) (710 S.E.2d 766) (2011).

The record shows that Lamar owns a traditional poster billboard located at 322 Mall Boulevard in Savannah. On April 10, 2013, Lamar submitted an application to the Savannah Zoning Administrator for a permit to convert the Mall Boulevard billboard to a digital billboard. Prior thereto, Lamar's competitor, Golden Isles, had submitted applications to convert two of its existing poster billboards to digital billboards. Permits for conversion of Golden Isles' billboards could not be issued absent the Savannah City Council's approval of a [331 Ga.App. 495] pending amendment of the Savannah Code.[2] By the time the City Council approved the amendment, the Zoning Administrator already had approved Lamar's April 10, 2013 application. Thereafter, one of Golden Isles' two applications for a digital billboard permit was granted. The digital billboard ordinance in the Savannah Code, Savannah Code § 8-3112 (c) (5), provides that no more than three new digital billboards may be authorized after October 7, 2011. Savannah Code § 8-3112 (c) (5) e.10. Golden Isles submitted its two applications in hopes of obtaining the last two available permits for digital billboards, but due to the permit Lamar received for the Mall Boulevard site, Golden Isles received only one instead.

Golden Isles submitted a petition for an appeal to the ZBA challenging the validity of the permit for the Mall Boulevard location. Golden Isles argued that the permit was contrary to the digital billboard ordinance. That ordinance states, among other things, that digital billboards " shall be permitted only along four lan[e] or more arterial roadways as defined in subsection 8-3112 (l) herein." Savannah Code § 8-3112 (c) (5) e.5. (the " arterial roadway restriction" ). Golden Isles maintained that Mall Boulevard is a collector street.

After examining the language of Savannah Code § 8-3112 (l), which governs separate use signs[3] generally, the ZBA concluded, in

Page 176

essence, that the arterial roadway restriction contains a drafting error. The ZBA noted that while the arterial roadway restriction refers to subsection 8-3112 (l) to define " four lan[e] or more arterial roadways," that subsection does not reference a street classification map that defines roads as arterial or collector. The ZBA concluded that the correct map reference should have been the street classification map referenced in Savannah Code ยง 3025 (g), which designates Mall Boulevard as a collector street. Based on the ...


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