Illegal billboards come down; legal battle continues

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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) William Puchert has reason to smile. The view from his back yard is no longer interrupted by the frame work of a billboard that was never completed and looking across the freeway to the Mountain View Cemetery; one near the cemetery's big cross is also missing.

"It affected our quality of life," he says. "It affected our views and it also affected our property values."

The billboards were erected as a deliberate challenge to local ordinances which followed a vote of the people banning new billboards.

The challenge was brought by a company called Strict Scrutiny Media as part of a campaign by Alan and Jeff Herson, a father-son effort to take down billboard ordinances here as well California and Oregon.

"The sign perpetrators were just thumbing their nose at the voters' will on this issue. And my neighbors and I having this illegal billboard really brought this battle literally into our backyards."

The Hersons have argued in court elsewhere that restrictions on billboards are a violation of First Amendment rights. Here, the billboards were met with citations. The citations were answered, as they were elsewhere, by a lawsuit.

The suddenness of the appearance of the billboards last February--unpermitted and unexplained--has been matched by their sudden disappearance.

County officials tell us they were contacted by a representative of the Oddfellows Lodge, which owns Mountain View, about an offer to resolve the dispute, agreeing to remove the billboards to be in compliance with the city and county dropping the citations.

Reno City Attorney Karl Hall says the third billboard--in the parking lot of the Oddfellows Lodge on Stardust--is part of that agreement and will also be removed.

All of this comes as good news to Puchert and his neighbors, as it may amount to an end to their months-long resistance.

"I hope so, but since this was done so sneaky at first I don't know what's to come, but I'm hoping this ends this dilemma for now."

That remains to be seen. The Hersons have been at this for some time, but if they want to challenge the billboard ordinances here, they may have to find new partners. In any case, the lawsuit continues.