March 14, 2018
From Richland County Tanya A. Gee, Circuit Court Judge
Patrick L. Wright and Dana M. Thye, of Columbia, for
Jay Bender, of Baker Ravenel & Bender, LLP, of Columbia,
review a decision by the circuit court reversing on appeal a
decision of the City of Columbia Board of Zoning Appeals (the
City) denying Christ Central Ministries (CCM) a permit to
replace a billboard on its property. We dismiss this case
because it is moot.
owns property on the corner of Main Street and Elmwood Avenue
in Columbia. Previously, CCM leased a portion of the property
to Lamar Companies (Lamar) for the purpose of erecting and
maintaining a fixed display billboard. In 2014, Lamar sought
a permit to replace the existing billboard with a changeable
copy billboard. The City issued the permit on March 13, 2014,
and that permit, by its terms, lasted six months. On June 16,
2014, Lamar requested an extension of its permit. The City
granted the extension until December 31, 2014.
2014, CCM began negotiations to enter into a new lease
agreement for the sign location. CCM, through its agent,
requested a permit from the City to replace the existing
billboard with a changeable copy billboard on September 23,
2014. The City denied CCM's request because
"Currently, there is an active zoning/building permit .
. . issued to Lamar Advertising, to convert said sign to a
changeable copy." The letter notified CCM "[s]hould
that permit not be renewed or the proposed work completed,
and/or should Lamar retain no property interest, it is my
understanding that you immediately intend to obtain a permit
for the conversion to changeable copy per 17-404(e)(4)."
decided to sign a lease with a different sign company, and
Lamar removed its billboard in August 2014. CCM again sought
a permit to place a changeable copy billboard on the property
in January, 2015, after the expiration of Lamar's permit.
The City denied CCM's request noting "[i]t is my
understanding that the non-conforming sign at the above
referenced location was removed by the sign owner on or about
August 2, 2014. As such, this office would not be able to
issue a permit, per § 17-404(e)(4), to replace a sign
that is no longer existing." CCM appealed the City's
decision to the Board of Zoning Appeals, which affirmed the
City's denial. CCM appealed the Board's decision to
the circuit court.
circuit court reversed the Board's decision. The circuit
court found, according to the plain language of the
City's ordinance, "no language in the relevant
provision of the ordinance imposes a time period in which one
must act to seek a permit, and strict construction of the
ordinance does not grant this court authority to impose such
a limitation." The City filed a notice of appeal on
December 7, 2015.
appellate court gives 'great deference to the decisions
of those charged with interpreting and applying local zoning
ordinances.'" Arkay, LLC v. City of
Charleston, 418 S.C. 86, 91, 791 S.E.2d 305, 308 (Ct.
App. 2016) (quoting Gurganious v. City of Beaufort,
317 S.C. 481, 487, 454 S.E.2d 912, 916 (Ct. App. 1995)).
"This court will not reverse a zoning board's
decision unless the board's findings of fact have no
evidentiary support or the board commits an error of
law." Id. at 91-92, 791 S.E.2d at 308.
"Issues involving the construction of an ordinance are
reviewed as a matter of law under a broader standard of
review than is applied in reviewing issues of fact."
Id. at 92, 791 S.E.2d at 308 (quoting Mikell v.
Cty. of Charleston, 386 S.C. 153, 158, 687 S.E.2d 326,
329 (2009)). ...