HOMER TWP V BILLBOARDS BY JOHNSON INCAnnotate this Case
STATE OF MICHIGAN
COURT OF APPEALS
TOWNSHIP OF HOMER,
October 27, 2005
Midland Circuit Court
LC No. 03-006042-CZ
BILLBOARDS BY JOHNSON, INC.,
Official Reported Version
Before: Kelly, P.J., and Meter and Davis, JJ.
In this interlocutory appeal, we granted defendant leave to appeal a partial grant of
summary disposition, in which the trial court held that the Highway Advertising Act (HAA),
MCL 252.301 et seq., did not preempt two of plaintiff 's billboard ordinances. One ordinance
prohibited "cross-reader" billboards, which are two-sided billboards displaying advertising to
highway traffic traveling in both directions. Defendant added a second face to an existing
billboard, contrary to the permit issued by plaintiff, in the belief that plaintiff 's ban on crossreader billboards violated the HAA. Plaintiff later enacted the second ordinance, which
prohibited new off-premises billboards. Plaintiff seeks an injunction requiring removal of the
second billboard face and its associated structural components. On cross-appeal, plaintiff also
contends that defendant lacks standing to challenge the ordinances. We affirm in part, reverse in
part, and remand for further proceedings.
A grant or denial of summary disposition is reviewed de novo on the basis of the entire
record to determine if the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Maiden v
Rozwood, 461 Mich 109, 118; 597 NW2d 817 (1999). We review de novo issues involving
preemption, which involve statutory interpretation. Konynenbelt v Flagstar Bank, FSB, 242
Mich App 21, 27; 617 NW2d 706 (2000). The goal of statutory interpretation is to give effect to
the intent of the Legislature, with the presumption that unambiguous language should be
enforced as written. Gladych v New Family Homes, Inc, 468 Mich 594, 597; 664 NW2d 705
"[A] municipal ordinance is preempted by state law if 1) the statute completely occupies
the field that ordinance attempts to regulate, or 2) the ordinance directly conflicts with a state
statute." Rental Prop Owners Ass'n of Kent Co v Grand Rapids, 455 Mich 246, 257; 566 NW2d
514 (1997). MCL 252.304 explicitly states that the HAA "regulates and controls the size,
lighting, and spacing of signs and sign structures in adjacent areas and occupies the whole field
of that regulation and control," with four enumerated exceptions, one of which permits townships
to "enact ordinances to regulate and control the size, lighting, and spacing of signs and sign
structures" as long as doing so does not allow a sign otherwise prohibited by the HAA. Under
MCL 252.302(o), an "adjacent area" is "the area measured from the nearest edge of the right of
way of an interstate highway, freeway, or primary highway, and extending 3,000 feet
perpendicularly and then along a line parallel to the right-of-way line."
We have held that the HAA expressly occupies the whole field of regulation and control
of off-premises billboards, but only precluded local regulation of signs in adjacent areas "where
the facing of the sign is visible from an interstate highway, freeway or primary highway."
Dingeman Advertising, Inc v Saginaw Twp, 92 Mich App 735, 740-741; 285 NW2d 440 (1979).
However, we later noted that a closer reading of the HAA indicates "that preemption extends
only to the area of regulation, which is, size, lighting and spacing in adjacent areas," so the HAA
"does not pre-empt local governments from regulating areas unrelated to spacing, lighting and
size of signs in adjacent areas." Central Advertising Co v St Joseph Twp, 125 Mich App 548,
552; 337 NW2d 15 (1983). Accord Oshtemo Twp v Central Advertising Co, 125 Mich App 538,
542; 336 NW2d 823 (1983).
This plain and unambiguous language of the opening sentence of MCL 252.304 mandates
the conclusion we reached in Central Advertising Co. Under the last antecedent rule, "that
regulation and control" must refer to "regulat[ing] and control[ing] the size, lighting, and spacing
of signs and sign structures in adjacent areas." See Stanton v Battle Creek, 466 Mich 611, 616;
647 NW2d 508 (2002) ("[A] modifying or restrictive word or clause contained in a statute is
confined solely to the immediately preceding clause or last antecedent, unless something in the
statute requires a different interpretation."). We enforce the plain and unambiguous language of
the statute as it is written. Gladych, supra at 597.
The ordinances at issue fall outside the scope of the intended preemption in the HAA and
do not conflict with the HAA's regulatory scheme. The two ordinances prohibit cross-reader
signs and new off-premises billboards, respectively. Neither facially regulates size, lighting, or
spacing of billboards in adjacent areas. Furthermore, the HAA's prohibition against ordinances
allowing signs that are "otherwise prohibited" constitutes a prohibition against expanding uses.
It follows that the HAA sets forth minimum requirements that a township cannot fall below, but
that a township is free to exceed. Thus, the township may enact ordinances that are more
restrictive than required by the HAA. Therefore, the ordinances are both outside the scope of the
HAA's regulatory scheme and would in any event be permitted under an explicit exception.
Furthermore, plaintiff 's ban on new billboards is not a total ban and is therefore permissible.
Adams Outdoor Advertising, Inc v Holland, 463 Mich 675, 684-685; 625 NW2d 377 (2001).
On cross-appeal, plaintiff argues that defendant lacks standing to challenge the
ordinances. We agree in part. Standing is a question of law that we review de novo. Lee v
Macomb Co Bd of Comm'rs, 464 Mich 726, 734; 629 NW2d 900 (2001). In order to have
standing, a party must show an actual injury that is caused by the opposing party and is "'likely'"
to "be 'redressed by a favorable decision.'" Id. at 739, quoting Lujan v Defenders of Wildlife, 504
US 555, 561; 112 S Ct 2130; 119 L Ed 2d 351 (1992).
The trial court erroneously stated that plaintiff had not challenged defendant's standing to
contest the ban on cross-reader billboards. However, defendant did not seek a variance from the
cross-reader billboard ban when plaintiff denied it a permit to put the second face on the sign
structure. Instead, defendant installed the second sign face and only sought a variance after
plaintiff had amended the ordinance to prohibit new billboards. Therefore, because defendant
revised its building permit request to seek a single-sign permit and because defendant never
sought a variance allowing the cross-reader billboard to be installed until after the ordinance had
been completely revised, the court erred in finding that defendant had standing to challenge the
ban on cross-reader billboards. However, defendant apparently did apply for a variance that was
denied because of the amended ordinance, so the trial court did not err in finding that defendant
had standing to challenge the revised billboard ordinance.
The trial court declined to address plaintiff 's argument that its billboard ordinances are
valid as a matter of law under Cincinnati v Discovery Network, Inc, 507 US 410; 113 S Ct 1505;
123 L Ed 2d 99 (1993), and Rochester Hills v Schultz, 459 Mich 486; 592 NW2d 69 (1999). We
need not address the issue either, Grand Rapids Employees Independent Union v Grand Rapids,
235 Mich App 398, 409; 597 NW2d 284 (1999), especially where this appeal can be decided
without reaching constitutional issues. Pythagorean, Inc v Grand Rapids Twp, 253 Mich App
525, 527; 656 NW2d 212 (2002). We likewise decline to address the issue.
The trial court's conclusion that the HAA does not preempt the ordinances is affirmed.
The trial court's finding that defendant had standing to challenge the cross-reader billboard ban is
reversed, and the trial court's finding that defendant had standing to challenge the revised
ordinance is affirmed. We remand for further proceedings.
/s/ Kirsten Frank Kelly
/s/ Patrick M. Meter
/s/ Alton T. Davis