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Lamar Co., LLC v. City of Richmond

Supreme Court of Virginia

April 17, 2014

THE LAMAR COMPANY, LLC
v.
CITY OF RICHMOND; ALAN T. SHAIA, ET AL.
v.
CITY OF RICHMOND

FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE CITY OF RICHMOND. Melvin R. Hughes, Jr., Judge.

John G. "Chip" Dicks (Jerry C. Booth, Jr.; Future Law; Golightly Mulligan & Booth, on briefs), for appellant The Lamar Company, LLC.

Patrick R. Bynum, Jr. for appellants Alan T. Shaia and Wayne T. Shaia.

(Bonnie Ashley, Deputy City Attorney; Carlos L. Hopkins, Deputy City Attorney on brief), for appellee.

OPINION

Page 445

[287 Va. 350] Present: All the Justices

DONALD W. LEMONS, JUSTICE.

In this appeal, we consider whether the Circuit Court of the City of Richmond (" circuit court" ) erred by holding that Code § 15.2-2307 is " merely enabling" legislation and granting the demurrer filed by the City of Richmond (" City" ).

I. Facts and Proceedings Below

These consolidated appeals arise from the circuit court's judgment sustaining the City's demurrer and dismissing the complaints for declaratory judgment filed by Alan T. Shaia and Wayne T. Shaia (the " Shaias" ) and The Lamar Company, L.L.C. (" Lamar" ). The Shaias are the owners of real property located at 501 South 14th Street, on Mayo Island in Richmond, Virginia. Lamar leases the property from the Shaias and maintains a billboard on the premises which is visible from Interstate 95.

The City brought an enforcement action against Lamar and the Shaias seeking removal of the billboard, or in the alternative, requiring the billboard to be lowered to a conforming height. Lamar and the Shaias filed separate complaints for declaratory judgment against the City alleging that " the City may not require removal of [the billboard] if the City has been paid taxes for more than 15 years." In response, the City filed demurrers, pleas in bar, and motions for sanctions against all plaintiffs. The circuit court conducted hearings on the City's pleadings on December 14, 2012 and April 10, 2013. Following the hearings, the circuit court held:

This suit for declaratory relief under the Declaratory Judgment Act, [which] involves plaintiffs' request for a declaration of rights and obligations of the parties under Va. Code § 15.2-2307[,] is premature as the statute is merely enabling law empowering local governments the means to enact ordinances consistent therewith. Here, plaintiffs' allegations are devoid of [287 Va. 351] any reference that the defendant has enacted any ordinance under the statute, in the absence of which the Complaint is not based on present but speculative facts, not

Page 446

ripe for judicial assessment and otherwise seeks an ...

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