Cox Communications demanded that LUS stop distributing yard signs, claiming they violate the city's own sign ordinance.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010 Cox Communications threatens a lawsuit over LUS Fiber’s use of yard signs.By Nathan Stubbs
LUS Fiber has ceased the distribution of yard signs that read “I’m proud of my LUS Fiber” to its customers following a letter from a Cox Communications attorney threatening legal action against the city over the issue. In a letter addressed to Lafayette Utilities System Director Terry Huval, Cox attorney Mike Skinner writes that LUS’ telecommunications division, and by extension Lafayette Consolidated Government, has been actively violating the city’s own sign ordinance. The letter is copied to City-Parish President Joey Durel and city-parish attorney Pat Ottinger.
Huval says that after receiving the letter, and reviewing it with Ottinger, LUS Fiber’s yard sign program has been temporarily discontinued and that no new signs are being handed out. Huval adds that LUS has not asked any customers to remove existing LUS Fiber yard signs and is still reviewing the legal aspects of the issue.
In 2007, in an effort to eventually reduce the visual clutter of signs from commercial strips like Johnston Street, the City-Parish Council passed an extensive sign ordinance regulating the size and placement of both commercial and residential signs. The ordinance states that in single residential lots, only the following signs may be allowed:
• One sign, not to exceed 2 square feet in surface area, providing non-commercial content, such as the name and/or address of the owner or lessee of the residence, and/or a 1 square-foot business sign for an approved home occupation
• One non-illuminated sign, not to exceed 12 square feet in surface area, pertaining to the lease or sale of a building or lot
• One non-illuminated sign, not to exceed 32 square feet in surface area, identifying a developer, engineer, architect, or contractor engaged in the construction of a building or development; this sign may not exceed 10 feet in height and must be removed within 30 days following occupancy of the building
The ordinance also allows for certain political yard signs. Political signs are defined as those advocating a position, party or candidate on an upcoming ballot. The law states they can be no greater than 8 square feet in area, installed no earlier than 90 days prior to the balloting for which it was prepared, and shall be removed within 10 calendar days following the decisive vote.
According to these restrictions, several commonplace yard signs such as those advertising a home landscaper or other services would also be illegal. Skinner only mentions the LUS Fiber signs in his letter on behalf of Cox. The letter also includes a photo example of an LUS Fiber yard sign, which the letter states was taken May 25, 2009, at 100 Spencer Drive in Lafayette.
In addition, Skinner cites a newsletter sent out by LUS Fiber that mentions the signs. “In this newsletter, LUS Fiber is actually encouraging the use of these illegal signs,” Skinner writes, adding that this violates another city ordinance which “places a duty on all officers and employees of the city-parish government to report violations of the Zoning Ordinance to the zoning administrator.”
The attorney’s missive wraps up with the following warning: “Within 10 days of your receipt of this letter, unless these signs are removed and my client receives assurances that the use of these illegal signs by LUS Fiber will stop and not be resumed, my client has instructed me to take whatever steps are necessary to halt this illegal activity, including, but not limited to, filing suit against Lafayette Consolidated Government and against Lafayette Utilities System and its Communications Division for unfair trade practices seeking damages and injunctive relief.”
In a follow-up letter addressed to Ottinger, Skinner provides a list of 19 locations he says continue to be in violation of the sign ordinance. “I would appreciate it if you would forward these addresses to the Planning and Zoning Department, or any other appropriate agency or department, so that proper measures can be taken to have these signs removed,” he writes.
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