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Reagan Advertising to sue city over billboard bulldozing

Friday, November 6, 2009 by Austin Monitor

After losing a motion for summary judgment on the status of two billboards on property slated for construction of Water Treatment Plant 4, the City of Austin knocked down two billboards belonging to Reagan National Advertising.

 

The signs were bulldozed last Friday, but sign company owner Bill Reagan says the city did not notify him prior to demolishing the signs. He told In Fact Daily he was shocked by the city’s actions.

 

City Council members voted on Oct. 22 to approve the initial construction contract for WTP4, a signal indicating their willingness to go forward with the controversial project.

 

Reagan notified the city via certified mail this week of his intention to file suit for damages “in excess of $1 million,” the value of the billboards and possibly the ability to relocate the signs.

 

Assistant City Manager Rudy Garza said the city was within its rights in removing the signs. Garza said he had not seen the notice about the lawsuit. “It’s been very clear that Reagan was trespassing on city property and we’ve given him many, many opportunities to remove the signs,” Garza said.

 

Reagan said his attorney had been negotiating with the city over the status of the billboards on the property near FM 620 Road and Bullick Hollow Road, west of Lake Travis.

 

He said he learned of the destruction of the signs in a phone call from an employee on Oct. 30. “It appears that when the city couldn’t get the relief they were seeking from the courts they decided to engage in self help rather than work towards a resolution to this dispute legally,” he said.

 

Although previous communications between the attorneys had been through fax and email, Reagan said, the letter notifying his attorney about the city’s decision to remove the signs was sent via certified letter, guaranteeing that it would not be received until after the city had destroyed the billboards. The letter was received on Monday. Assistant City Attorney Patricia Link signed the letter dated Oct. 29.

 

The previous landowners, DHD Ventures, had two separate lease agreements with Reagan that allowed them to maintain billboards on the property. The agreements included covenants requiring future owners to give 60 days notice and a refund of unearned rent in order to terminate the leases.

 

In July 2008, the city told Reagan that it was terminating the leases, but Reagan sent rent checks to the city on Aug. 1 and Dec. 1, 2008, that covered 12-month terms, respectively. The city received and deposited these checks, according to court records, but then filed suit on April 3, 2009, claiming Reagan was trespassing on city land and that it had not paid rent.

 

In July, the city realized that it had cashed the rent checks but proceeded with the lawsuit. Reagan’s attorneys claim that the city invalidated its claim to terminate the leases by accepting rent. That will likely be one of the many issues in future litigation.

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