Two years later, company can place signs inside city limits

A Gig Harbor sign company, who filed a lawsuit against the city, has been given permits to places six signs in Port Orchard.

Building permits were issued to Gotcha Covered Media on Dec. 18 to place commercial billboards within city limits at commercial properties along Sedgwick Road, Mile Hill Drive and Highway 16, according to interim development director Tom Bonsell.

“We issued the permits, but no one from the company has came to pick up the permits,” Bonsell said on Jan. 15.

The city lost a federal court case involving a media billboard company, Engley Diversified Inc., in September.

Judge Benjamin H. Settle ruled the city did not show evidence of handling Engley’s permit application differently than how it handles building permits. Engley submitted various sketches, site plans, engineered drawings from a professional engineer and structural calculations for the proposed billboards that follow the city’s code requirements for building a structure, according to the ruling.

The city also charged Engley the standard $4.50 building code fee for the permits, but city attorneys didn’t explain to the federal court why the city was charging the company this fee when the permits were being labeled strictly as sign or construction permits, according to federal court document.

In April 2010, the company applied for permits to place commercial billboards within city limits at commercial properties, but the city denied the permits later that month.

After Port Orchard’s hearing examiner affirmed the denial of the permits in November 2011, Engley filed an appeal with the city the following month.

On March 22, 2011, the city council dismissed Engley’s appeal as untimely, according to United States District Court documents.

After the city council dismissed the appeal, the U.S. District Court ruled the appeal was timely and ordered the council members to make a decision on the appeal in July 2011.

Originally, the city denied Engley’s billboard permits based upon an interpretation of the city’s Municipal Code that billboards the company wanted to place in city limits were “off premises” signs and all such signs were not allowed.

The U.S. District Court ordered the city council to make a decision on Engley’s appeal.

But in September 2011, the city council reversed the hearing examiner’s ruling that the signs were prohibited, but stated that the company’s application for the permit to place the signs within the city were not vested to city code since Engley applied for a “construction permit rather than a building permit.”

Settle ruled that a building permit and a construction permit was a distinction without a difference.


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