2009-07-08 / News

County sues businesses over illegal signs on Route 10

By Greg Pearson
STAFF WRITER

The County Attorney's Office has filed suit asking the Chesterfield Circuit Court to order two businesses in the eastern part of the county to stop putting illegal signs along Route 10 directing passing motorists to the White Oaks Luxury Apartments. If the county prevails in court, future violations would be a contempt of court, which judges are known to frown on.

"The county pursues zoning violations in criminal court every Tuesday, which includes sign violations," said Assistant County Attorney Tara McGee. "This case is in circuit court to ask for no sign violations in the future." She declined further comment on the litigation.

The suit filed last month seeks "a permanent injunction from the court enjoining White Oaks and Shamin [Chestnut Hills, LLC] from violating the county's zoning ordinance even without a showing of irreparable harm or lack of adequate remedy at law." Shamin owns property with frontage on Route 10 at Chestnut Hill Road in the northeast quadrant of Route 10 and Interstate 95 where "portable signs, flags and real estate signs" have advertised White Oak. There was also a large sign on a truck parked off Route 10 and one on a vacant field visible to northbound motorists on Interstate 95.

The county began warning the businesses that they had not filed for the appropriate permits last February. The ordinance does not allow one business to permit another business to put up signs and banners on its property.

Only the rooftops of the apartment complex are visible from Route 10, and that's the problem, says attorney Carrie Coyner, who represents White Oak. She acknowledged there were other ways to advertise the apartments, but said road signs were particularly effective.

Last spring, Coyner asked the board of supervisors to review the county's road sign policy and allow businesses with frontage on major roads to permit signs and banners for other businesses without such visibility. The county planning department is studying the request.

"I asked the board to allow White Oaks to advertise [with signs] until a certain percentage of the apartments are leased," said Coyner. "This is a $38 million tax-revenue-generating project for the county."

Coyner believes the county is enforcing the sign ordinance more stringently because a few citizens have become very active in filing sign violation complaints. County enforcement is more complaint-based.

In addition to the injunction, the suit asks the court to "grant the county its costs and other such relief as may be appropriate."

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