Madison and Adams Outdoor Advertising have struck a tentative deal that settles long-standing litigation, frees the city and other taxing entities from repaying $1.1 million in excess tax collections, but allows some more billboards in the city.
The city doesn't permit new billboards, but under the deal, Adams could get permits for five double-sided billboards and replace or repair two others. The new billboards could not be placed in the city's historic, urban design or no advertising districts.
In exchange, the city wouldn't have to pay Adams $623,600 and other jurisdictions $455,500 for tax overpayments, interest and court charges from a summer settlement related to lawsuits dating back nearly a decade.
Also, Adams would remove two billboards from the city-owned Villager mall on South Park Street and another from the vacant, city-owned Union Corners property at the corner of East Washington Avenue and Milwaukee Street. Those billboards would have hampered redevelopment at those properties, where the city has made multi-million-dollar investments, and could have led to more litigation, city officials said.
"You look at what you get in balance," Mayor Paul Soglin said, adding that new billboards will be in less intrusive locations than some existing ones. "It's a good deal."
Adams general manager Ed Schulz could not be reached.
The deal will be introduced as a replacement to the original settlement to the City Council on Tuesday night, referred to committees, and decided by the council at a later date.
If the council refuses the new deal, the council would be asked to approve the original settlement under which the city and other taxing jurisdictions would repay the $1.1 million.
In the past, Madison assessed Adams' 100-plus billboards based on their income, including the value of permits that allow the structures.
Adams argued billboards should be assessed based on the cost of the structures and filed lawsuits, one for tax years 2002 through 2004 and 2006, and a second for 2005 and 2007 through 2010.
In 2006, the state Supreme Court ruled the city's assessments flawed and ordered the city to reassess the billboards. The city did so, but Adams challenged new values, again winning in lower courts.
In February, the state Supreme Court refused the case, ending the city's appeal options. The city and Adams negotiated the $1.1 million settlement, but then Adams approached the city about an alternative.