Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Altering The Scope?

Frank Kosir, Jr.
Lamar Advantage GP Company, LLC v. City of Pittsburgh, 2013 Pa. Commw. LEXIS 127 (2013)

This matter addressed the issue of whether amendments to proposed legislation altered the scope and purpose of the legislation so as to require an additional public hearing to be advertised and held prior to a vote on the passage of the legislation.  In March of 2010, Council Bill No. 2010-0216 (“First Bill”) was introduced in the Pittsburgh City Council (“Council”), amending certain sections of the City of Pittsburgh Zoning Code (“Code”) to, inter alia, revise requirements relating to Electronic Message Signs, and delineating a set for standards for the abandonment of nonconforming advertising signs.  The First Bill was subsequently forwarded to the City of Pittsburgh Planning Commission (“Commission”), which held a public hearing and sent the First Bill back to Council with a series of proposed amendments.  In July of 2011, a bill incorporating these amendments, (Council Bill No. 2011-1916) (“Second Bill”), was introduced in Council, and a public hearing held.  However, the Second Bill was subsequently amended to, inter alia, eliminate electronic advertising signs in certain commercial zoning districts and reduce the permitted light levels for electronic signs.  The amended Second Bill was passed by Council on December 19, 2011, and subsequently signed into law by the Mayor.

Following the passage of the Second Bill, Lamar Advantage GP Company, LLC (“Lamar”) filed an appeal in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas alleging that the enactment of the Second Bill violated both the Second Class City Code and the Pittsburgh Code.  Specifically, Lamar alleged that, since the form and language of the final version of the Second Bill were significantly revised from its original form, Council was required to submit the Second Bill to the Commission for review and for a public hearing.  The trial court, concluding that the final version of the Second Bill was substantially in the same form as the original version, dismissed Lamar’s appeal with prejudice.

On appeal, our Commonwealth Court affirmed.  In issuing its ruling the court noted that, while amendments to proposed legislation are permitted, such amendments cannot exceed the scope of the legislation, or alter its meaning or purpose.  Rather, if a fundamental change is made to the scope or meaning of proposed legislation, a second public hearing must be held and advertised, and the public be given an opportunity to comment on the proposed legislation.  However, in this instance, the revisions to the Second Bill merely made certain provisions more stringent and did not change to over-all purpose of the Second Bill, which was to regulate and control electronic advertising signs.  Therefore, the revisions were not so substantial as to require re-advertisement or a second hearing, and the trial court properly dismissed Lamar’s appeal.    

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