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Donnelly Advertising Corp. of Md. v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore

Citation: 7 ELR 20397
No. No. 138, 370 A.2d 1127/279 Md. 660, (Md., 03/21/1977)

The Maryland Court of Appeals upholds against several constitutional attacks the validity of Baltimore's Oldtown Urban Renewal Ordinance, which requires removal of off-site billboards. The ordinance prohibits, without compensation, all signs other than those identifying uses of the property on which the sign stands. While zoning changes are contemplated in the urban renewal plan, that does not require that zoning notice procedures be followed in enacting the plan. Also, compensation need not be paid under the federal Highway Beautification Act because the removal is made pursuant to the city's police power, not the Act. Nor does the Ordinance violate the First Amendment, for it is directed only at the secondary effects of billboards on neighborhood blight, not at the billboard's content, and billboards are permitted in other city sections. The Ordinance does not deny equal protection because it has a rational relationship to the permissible state objective of urban renewal. The Ordinance is a valid exercise of the city's police power in preserving architecturally significant areas. Finally, the Ordinance does not constitute a taking of private property without just compensation, as the billboards have been fully amortized for tax purposes. The lower court's "dismissal" of the complaint is vacated and remanded for a declaration of the parties' rights.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Jerald J. Oppel, William L. Balfour
Ober, Grimes & Shriver
10 Light St., Baltimore MD 21202
(301) 685-1120

Counsel for Defendants
Richard M. Hartman, Chief City Solicitor; Benjamin L. Brown, City Solicitor; C. Laurence Jenkins, Jr., Asst't City Solicitor
508 Tower Bldg., Baltimore MD 21202
(301) 396-3100

Argued before MURPHY, C.J., and SINGLEY, SMITH, DIGGES, LEVINE, ELDRIDGE and ORTH, JJ.