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Shout Outdoor Media, LLC v. Department of Transportation

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Second Division

October 15, 2019

SHOUT OUTDOOR MEDIA, LLC, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION; RANDALL S. BLANKENHORN, Secretary of Transportation; ANTHONY QUIGLEY, Region 1 Engineer of the Department of Transportation; LAURA R. MLACNIK, Engineer of Land Acquisition of the Department of Transportation; and TIM HOESLI, Outdoor Advertising Manager of the Department of Transportation, Defendants-Appellees.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois. No. 18 CH 1605 Honorable Thomas R. Allen, Judge Presiding.

          Attorneys for Appellant: Sanford M. Stein and Lawrence W. Falbe, of Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone, PLC, of Chicago, for appellant.

          Attorneys for Appellee: Kwame Raoul, Attorney General, of Chicago (Jane Elinor Notz, Solicitor General, and Caleb Rush, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel), for appellees.

          JUSTICE COGHLAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Fitzgerald Smith and Justice Lavin concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          COGHLAN, JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 In 2016, plaintiff Shout Outdoor Media, LLC (Shout), applied to the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) for a permit to place a billboard at 770 North Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago.[1] IDOT denied the application, citing the presence of another billboard within 500 feet at 1135 West Chicago Avenue. Under the Highway Advertising Control Act of 1971 (Act), "no two sign structures on the same side of the highway shall be erected less than 500 feet apart." 225 ILCS 440/6.03(b) (West 2016).

         ¶ 2 Shout filed a complaint in the circuit court for a writ of certiorari to review IDOT's final administrative decision. The circuit court affirmed the denial of the permit. Shout appeals, arguing that the Chicago Avenue sign is "an illegal sign under the Act" and, therefore, should not count for purposes of the 500-foot spacing requirement. For the reasons that follow, we affirm IDOT's decision to deny Shout's permit application.

         ¶ 3 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 4 In February 1996, David Gervercer entered into a lease with Universal Sign Company[2] to erect and maintain a billboard on Gervercer's property at 770 North Milwaukee Avenue. On November 13, 1996, IDOT issued Universal Sign Company a permit for the billboard (the old Milwaukee sign), visible to southbound traffic on I-90 and I-94.

         ¶ 5 On January 11, 2002, IDOT issued a permit for a billboard at 1135 West Chicago Avenue, also visible to southbound traffic on I-90 and I-94. The parties agree that issuance of this permit was improper because the Chicago Avenue sign was within 500 feet of the old Milwaukee sign.

         ¶ 6 In 2012, Gervercer terminated his lease with Universal Sign Company, and Universal Sign Company removed the old Milwaukee sign. Gervercer then entered into a new lease with Shout.

         ¶ 7 On December 16, 2016, Shout applied for a permit to place a sign in the exact location formerly occupied by the old Milwaukee sign. Following a conference between the parties, on August 1, 2017, IDOT sent Shout a notice that it intended to deny the application for two reasons: (1) Shout's proposed sign was within 500 feet of the Chicago Avenue sign, and (2) Shout's site drawing did not include the distances from the proposed sign to rights-of-way at both the interstate highway and North Ogden Avenue.

         ¶ 8 On August 29, 2017, Shout sent a timely response to IDOT, arguing that, because the Chicago Avenue sign was improperly permitted, it could not serve as the basis for denying Shout's permit application. Accordingly, Shout requested that IDOT require the Chicago Avenue sign to be removed and then issue a permit to Shout for the Milwaukee site. With regard to the alleged deficiencies in Shout's site drawing, Shout requested leave to fix those issues after resolving the spacing issue.

         ¶ 9 On January 2, 2018, IDOT issued a final denial of Shout's permit application, citing the same two reasons from its earlier letter. With regard to the spacing issue, IDOT stated: "After thorough review and examination, the Department determined that it is required to consider [the Chicago ...


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