State College

Judge drops legal fees in College Township sign case

A federal judge has reduced the amount of legal fees to which the plaintiffs in a College Township sign ordinance case are entitled.

U.S. Middle District Judge Matthew W. Brann on Monday said he reduced the requested amount because Nittany Outdoor Advertising and Stephanas Ministries, of Greensburg, was only partly successful in its suit against the township.

He approved $29,774 for Webb, Klase and Lemond, of Atlanta, and $145 for Elion, Wayne, Grieco and Shipman, of Williamsport. They sought $119,679 and $580, respectively.

Brann also approved costs totaling $525.

College Township had challenged the hours the attorneys said they worked on the case and the Atlanta firm’s hourly rates.

Brann last May declared unconstitutional the variance and permitting regulations but allowed the rest of the ordinance to remain in effect.

The suit stems from an attempt by Nittany and Stephanas to erect five billboards on College Avenue.

Permits had been rejected based on various points of the ordinance that restricts signs by size, height and building code requirements.

Brann’s May ruling affirmed some of the plaintiffs’ contentions, namely issues with spelling out the time frame for permits to be issued and processes for receiving a variance.

But it denied others, such as an injunction to stop the ordinance in its tracks and a request to award damages.

“It should be clear ... this does not render the ordinance a dead letter,” the judge wrote, saying all the problems are on the front end of the process, not with the intentions and regulations of the ordinance itself, which also governs compliance once signs are erected and provides for enforcement.

According to past correspondence, solicitor Louis Glantz said, the parties still intend to construct the billboards in the township.