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Aberg Billboards

Adams Outdoor Advertising has fought in court over billboards, including this one along Aberg Avenue on Madison's North Side.

A billboard advertising company is again going to court against the city of Madison, this time challenging the city’s rejection of its plan to modify 26 of its elevated signs.

Adams Outdoor Advertising filed a petition Thursday in Dane County Circuit Court asking that a judge review and reverse decisions made by the city zoning administrator and the Urban Design Commission and declare the city’s sign ordinance unconstitutional.

In April, according to Adams, the company asked the city to allow it to modify 26 billboard structures, to raise the height of many and add digital faces to 22 of the billboards. In June, the city zoning administrator denied the company permits for all but one, because the new faces would be considered new advertising signs, not allowed under the sign ordinance.

The Urban Design Commission upheld the denials on Oct. 11.

Adams has 111 billboard structures in the city of Madison, with 220 billboard faces, all deemed by the city to be non-conforming uses under the city’s sign ordinance.

Adams’ court filing is similar to the federal free speech and due process lawsuit that it filed against the city in July, which also challenges the city sign ordinance as unconstitutional. The federal lawsuit challenges denials of the same billboard alterations as the Dane County action filed on Thursday.

A trial in the federal lawsuit is set for November 2018, unless the case is completed before then by summary judgment. Motions from both sides asking for that type of ruling are due in June 2018.

The review petition is the latest in an ongoing dispute between Adams and local governments over the placement of its billboards. Adams lost a dispute with Madison in court over a bike path bridge over the Beltline that partially blocked one of its billboards. The company is asking the state Supreme Court to review the case.

Adams is appealing a decision in a case in which Adams was denied permission by the city of Fitchburg to install a digital billboard to replace one partially blocked by another bike path bridge that crosses Highway PD. The company is also appealing another court ruling that dismissed Adams’ claim that the Dane County Board illegally voted not to renew a lease on county land where three billboards had stood.

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Ed Treleven is the courts reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.

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