With the Tacoma City Council backtracking on its legal settlement with Clear Channel Outdoor, the company said it has signed the agreement and officially put it into effect.
The council unanimously approved the settlement that allows Clear Channel to erect digital billboards in exchange for taking down traditional signs. After public complaints, the council backed off. It’s now considering an explicit ban on digital billboards and ordering Clear Channel to take down its traditional signs that violate city laws, as part of a revamp of the sign code.
The settlement says in the event of such a removal order, “the city will compensate Clear Channel for the fair market value of those interests.”
Clear Channel spokesman Tim Thompson said by signing the agreement this week, the company reaffirms its support for the settlement and reminds the city about that requirement for “compensation.”
“The steps the City Council was taking were obviously contradictory to the agreement,” Thompson said.
The company has threatened to sue if the agreement is violated. Thompson declined to talk about future lawsuits; the company remains open to negotiation, he said.
Here’s Clear Channel’s news release and the agreement:
CLEAR CHANNEL REAFFIRMS ITS COMITTMENT TO TACOMA SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT
July 28, 2011 –Clear Channel Outdoor elected to exercise the option to execute and deliver the Settlement Agreement between the City of Tacoma and Clear Channel that was entered into almost a year ago. The draft code revisions released by Council this week attempt to re-address just compensation matters that have already been mutually agreed upon within the Settlement Agreement. Under this Settlement Agreement, the City of Tacoma acknowledged the vested rights of Clear Channel in all conforming and nonconforming signs and relocation permits. In addition, the City agreed to compensate Clear Channel at fair market value if any billboards are required to be removed in the future. Finalizing these two major issues resolved a sizeable legal and financial liability for the City.
Clear Channel understands that the City is not currently working to resolve the issue of allowing digital billboards in Tacoma within the next six months, under the moratorium that was recently put in place. We find this unfortunate since the portions of the settlement relating to new digital permits being issued would remove 178 signs & permits from the city landscape –over 49,000 square feet of signage – in exchange for a limited number of digital billboards. Nonetheless, the Settlement Agreement provides final resolution regarding various issues left in dispute under the City’s 1997 sign code surrounding just compensation, unlawful takings and vested rights.
Throughout this process Clear Channel has honored its commitment and obligation under the Settlement Agreement and has acted in good faith to perform under that Settlement- including giving the City an additional 6 months to explore the best way to implement the agreed upon digital solution and to address concerns expressed by the public.
We have confidence in the Settlement Agreement and we expect that the City will perform its obligations as outlined in the Agreement. Our election to finalize this settlement is simply another example of Clear Channel acting in good faith, staying the course on what both parties agreed to originally and what the City Council unanimously approved last year. We remain confident that the City will continue to work with Clear Channel to fulfill its legally binding obligations within the Settlement Agreement. Clear Channel remains open to discuss reasonable solutions on how to best implement the settlement and will continue to have dialogue with Council and citizens to see this through.