Despite scuffle, Collins Road SE billboard approved

MediaQuest attorney alleges"backroom shenanigans" at Cedar Rapids City Hall

The city’s Board of Adjustment on Monday reaffirmed its January decision to grant a variance to allow a new billboard outside the Slumberland furniture store at 215 Collins Rd. SE.

The Board of Adjustment, which has the final say on zoning variances, reviewed the matter on Monday at the unusual request of the City Council.

Board Chairman David Lodge said Monday that the board had never had a matter remanded to it by the City Council — which is in the midst of studying the city’s billboard ordinance and now has imposed a moratorium on new billboard requests for 180 days — in his years on the board.

City officials noted again on Monday told the board that the city’s zoning law requires a 1,000-foot separation between one billboard and another billboard or another off-premise sign. However, the billboard proposed for the Slumberland site is closer than 1,000 feet to two existing off-premise signs.

Steve Allsop of MediaQuest Outdoor, successfully argued last month that the two existing signs really function as on-premise signs because they promote businesses near the signs, in one instance a hotel and in the second instance the Marketplace on 1st retail center.

Even so, city officials on Monday noted that the two existing signs were off-premise signs and could be converted into traditional billboards that advertise businesses and products not associated with the nearby properties.

Dean Spina, the attorney for MediaQuest Outdoor, said at one point on Monday that "backroom shenanigans" at City Hall might have be responsible for trying to block MediaQuest’s billboard permit, and Spina suggested that a court might have to sort the matter out if the board changed its decision from January.

In the end, the board voted as it did last month, 3-2, to allow the billboard variance.

Allsop’s billboard and its six-figure lease fee initially had been headed to an undeveloped parcel of land next to Slumberland owned by Indian Creek Nature Center. The center’s board and Mayor Ron Corbett, though, both objected to the billboard at the site so Allsop headed next door with his lease payment.

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