Thanks to state laws, removing a billboard in Utah is nearly impossible. Utah billboard owners demand huge ‘just compensation’ payments for buying out a single billboard.

WELCOME BACK TO OUR “ONLY IN UTAH” series, featuring head-slapping facts about state statutes that give billboard owners perks and benefits that are not granted in any of our peer states. Only in Utah are billboard owners gifted such a radically favorable and unlevel playing field vs. other property owners and municipalities.

We mentioned in our first posting that billboard owners, unlike any other private entity, can trigger an eminent domain process, demand exorbitant compensation, and get their way if government can’t or won’t pay the high buy-out price. In a fairer world, eminent domain is triggered by a government entity seeking to take private property for a public purpose, conditional on paying ‘just compensation.’

So, why can Utah billboard owners demand such outlandish ‘just compensation’ for removal of a single billboard? Take a look at the statue:

“…just compensation shall include the consideration of damages to remaining properties, contiguous and noncontiguous, of an outdoor advertising sign company's interest, which remaining properties, together with the properties actually condemned, constituted an economic unit.”

In other words, the ‘package’ of multiple signs a billboard owner rents to an advertiser constitutes an ‘economic unit’. The logic? If one billboard in the package comes down, it impacts, economically, all the other billboards in that package, requiring extra compensation. No matter that the others are still there, ready to be rented again and again. No matter that the billboard company could simply add to the package a different board from its vast inventory. Only in Utah, it's "buy one, buy them all"—or at least pay for them all, even if you only need one!

And there’s more. Only in Utah, in an eminent domain process involving billboards (unlike other types of real and personal property), state law prohibits a government entity from taking possession of the billboard until all appeals of the judgment allowing the buy-out have been completed, and until the final ‘just compensation’ price is paid in full. Appeals and negotiations over compensation payments can drag on endlessly, making the process onerous and, for many local governments, not worth the headache and expense of trying to remove a billboard.

Scenic Utah will keep fighting to normalize Utah’s abnormal billboard laws! You can help support our efforts by making a year-end gift that will be matched, dollar-for-dollar, by a generous Scenic Utah donor.

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