After two years, Seymour has won a lawsuit over billboards in a downtown park.
Mayor Craig Luedeman said Thursday the city has entered into a contract with Lamar Advertising, one of the country’s largest outdoor advertising companies, to have the billboards removed.
The Louisiana-based company, which owns the billboards in Crossroads Community Park at 101 E. Tipton St., has until June 30 to take them down, Luedeman said.
There are currently four billboards that face east and west along U.S. 50 and two billboards on the north side of the park that face south.
“They plan to be in the park June 23 to start removing those billboards,” Luedeman told the Seymour Redevelopment Commission during a meeting Tuesday. “It has been a big two-year process, but we got through it.”
The billboards were on a lease with previous property owner Dick Elmore that renewed every five years.
When the 3-acre property was sold to GM Development in 2017 for $3.5 million to develop the park for the city, Luedeman signed a letter asking Lamar to cancel the lease and remove the billboards.
At that time, the company said the city didn’t have the right to break the lease, so the city filed suit, but Lamar had the case moved to federal court.
“The biggest problem was getting the judge to actually rule,” Luedeman said. “Lamar took it out of local court and took it to federal court. Our attorney said all along it would be a minimum of six months from the time we filed to get the judge to even look at it.”
The city tried mediation, giving Lamar an extended period of time to keep the billboards up, Luedeman said.
“They didn’t want to do that,” he said. “They wanted us to pay them money, and we said no, and ultimately, we got the judge to rule in our favor, and they have to come down.”
In June 2018, Lamar proposed to remove the billboards if the city would allow the company to put up a new two-sided digital billboard with the capabilities of scrolling multiple advertisers’ messages.
Neither the redevelopment commission, which funded the park, the city parks board nor the council wanted to go that route because they felt an electronic billboard detracted from the aesthetic appeal of the park and would be distracting during concerts and events and to motorists passing by on U.S. 50.
“More than anything, I think it’s the aesthetics of the park to make it look better,” Luedeman said of why it’s important to have the billboards removed.
Through the process, Luedeman said the city learned the billboards were never approved by the Indiana Department of Transportation, which has jurisdiction along U.S. 50 or Tipton Street.
“I think that ruled in our favor a little bit, too,” he said.
Although it drug out for two years, Luedeman said the city did not lose a lot of money in the lawsuit.
“Attorney fees is all it was. It wasn’t really that expensive,” he said. “Our attorney only charged us when we had a call. He didn’t actually go to court. It was all done electronically through email.”
Commission President Mike Jordan thanked Luedeman and city attorney Rodney Farrow for their work and commitment to seeing the lawsuit through.
“It was no small task,” Jordan said. “Mission accomplished.”