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Wood vs Steel
by Ron Davis

An attempt by the owner of a Delaware shopping center to block changes to a nearby billboard has, for now at least, been unsuccessful.

The shopping center is Rehoboth Marketplace, located at Rehoboth Beach, and its owner has made it clear that he opposes any attempt to modify the neighbor’s billboard. He reasons that any changes would be a distraction to shopping center visitors and thereby result in a loss of business at his shopping center tenants.

He further explained that the change would likely cause some of his tenants to look for properties that are closer to a nearby heavily traveled highway.

The county board of adjustment wasn’t swayed by the argument of the center owner, however, and decided against taking any action. Board members noted that the current billboard sits on one of the lowest points of the property. Moreover, the property of the owner includes a miniature golf course and a parking lot for visitors, and they would probably also need to be moved to different locations.

The property itself is triangular in shape and most of that property sits on high ground, with some of the other properties situated on lower ground. A county pump station that is immediately north of the property, is on higher ground than the controversial billboard.

In fact, the currant billboard actually sits on lower ground than do most of the tenants of the property.

As for the position of the billboard, it consists of telephone poles and plywood and is approximately 500 square feet. Plans call for replacing the existing billboard with a steel monopole structure.

The opponent of the new billboard did get one bonus for his efforts: local officials would not allow extra square footage expansion, and with the condition that the new billboard remains the same size in height as the existing billboard.

Ultimately, a Delaware court was charged with resolving the impasse. The judge explained in his ruling, “The applicant simply seeks to replace the wooden billboard with a steel billboard. What the applicant is not doing is attempting to place a billboard on its property for the first time. After all, the billboard and its location pre-existed the arrival (of the neighboring businesses).

(Re: Gannos, LLC v. Sussex County Board of Adjustment et. al (CA. No. S15A-12-002 ESB.)

Decision: August 2016
Published: September 2016



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