Supreme Court Case Could Transform Sign Regulations

If the Supreme Court upholds a lower court decision, cities could lose a long-standing right to regulate 'off-premises' billboards.

1 minute read

November 9, 2021, 11:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Billboard Flag

Quinn Dombrowski / Flickr

A blog post from the American Planning Association (APA) details a U.S. Supreme Court case that could "upend much of modern sign regulation, and will force governments to reconsider their approaches to billboard controls."

The case, City of Austin v. Reagan National Advertising, Inc., concerns the distinction between on-and off-premises signs. In a lower court decision, the Fifth Circuit court ruled that the city's off-premises restriction—the advertisement of goods or services not provided at the same location as the billboard—was impermissible as it pertains to the content of the sign.

Now, the Supreme Court will decide whether to uphold the lower court's decision. If it does, cities will lose a decades-old regulatory technique that allowed them to regulate billboards and other advertisements. 

Although it did not take a position on the case, the APA filed an amicus curae brief, stating, "we support ensuring that the rationales for sign regulation — community functionality, economic development, traffic safety, and aesthetic beautification — remain available to local governments, and we encourage the Court to adopt clear rules for the regulation of billboards."

Monday, November 8, 2021 in American Planning Association

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