Bridge work will force billboards removal

Eight Clear Channel billboards on Route 13 Business will be removed by the end of the year to make room for a bridge the State Highway Administration will build over an offshoot of the Wicomico River.

Eight Clear Channel billboards on Route 13 Business will be removed by the end of the year to make room for a bridge the State Highway Administration will build over an offshoot of the Wicomico River — a move that has the billboard company asking for fair compensation, according to the company’s lawyer.

The billboards are in a section of what will be the city’s new walking and biking trail; Mayor Jake Day said he is pleased they will be taken down.

In their place will be a true community asset, he said, referring to the trail. The city is not involved in billboard dismantling.

Attorney James T. Roth, with Miller, Miller & Canby in Rockville, Md., the lawyer representing Clear Channel, told the Salisbury Independent the state is “replacing a bridge, a small bridge, over the Wicomico River” and has authority to get rid of the signs.

No lawsuit has been filed, Roth said, explaining the process is for the state to make an offer for compensation to Clear Channel, since the company’s lease won’t be over before the billboards are gone.

“It’s a matter of the state having a public purpose, a requirement for this project. They are going to take the land one way or another. Nobody is fighting that aspect. When it goes to court, what becomes contentious is the compensation piece – how much Clear Channel will be paid,” Roth said.

He refused to say the amount Clear Channel is requesting.

The state hasn’t claimed eminent domain, or condemnation action, to take the property in exchange for fair market value, but it can, and condemnation can’t be fought, Roth said.

“If there is an agreement as to compensation, potentially condemnation can be avoided but condemnation will be imminent if we can’t come to an agreement,” Roth said.

If the matter goes to court, and there is a jury trial, the final judgment may not be made for a while.

Roth – who described the eight billboards as being in a V shape, so that drivers heading north see four and drivers going south see the other four – said the bridge project will be executed in two phases.

The first phase involves relocating utilities to make space for the project.

“They have to get all of that done before they build what they need to build.

“There is a narrow strip of land between U.S. Business 13 to the west of the strip and on the east of the strip is a railroad bed. These billboards have been there a long time,” the lawyer said.

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

As your community newspaper, we are committed to making Salisbury a better place. You can help support our mission by making a voluntary contribution to the newspaper.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.