Signs and billboards are subject to many rules and laws established by both local governments and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). Florida’s Growth Management Act mandates that every Florida county and city enact regulations to govern signage. Accordingly, each local government has adopted their own regulations and there is seldom uniformity between them concerning the substance of the regulations. For example, many local governments have an outright ban on the permitting of offsite signs or digital reader boards. However, some of them allow such types of signage. Because of the complexity and diversity of sign regulations between local governments and the FDOT, it is important to have a complete understanding of how these laws are integrated and interpreted. This is especially important when a sign is subject to an eminent domain proceeding where by law, the sign may be relocated subject to a tri-party agreement between the local government, property owner and the FDOT, instead of being taken by the FDOT.
The Florida Legislature has also enacted law to force counties and cities to allow for the continued existence of an off-site sign, or allow for its relocation, unless the local government paid just compensation to the property owner for his investment. A similar law applies to signs that were permitted or grandfathered in under the FDOT’s Outdoor Advertising law.
Utilizing the right strategy prior to any code enforcement or legal action being initiated generally ensures that the maximum outcome is achieved for its owner. For instance, oftentimes the FDOT or a local government may cite a sign owner for being in violation of a local ordinance prior to the initiation of any legal proceeding or assert that a sign has lost its legal conforming (“grandfather status”) in order avoid payment to the sign owner.
Our firm has represented numerous clients that are placed in this situation, with signs that were alleged to be illegal by the government have often been found to be legal and generated a positive outcome for the owner – either being allowed to remain or being subject to payment for its acquisition by the government.