Philipstown government, sign owner agree on removal

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong

A dozen years after Philipstown won a court ruling ordering the removal of a Route 9 billboard installed on shaky grounds legally and geographically (atop a wetland), the town government and sign’s owner have agreed it will finally come down — by mid-February.

Along with razing the derelict billboard, its owner, Clear Channel Outdoor Inc., will pay the town $25,000, under an agreement drawn up by the company’s attorneys and Robert Cinque, a special lawyer for the town, and unanimously ratified by the Town Board last Wednesday night (Dec. 10).

Town Supervisor Richard Shea said that shortly before the board met, the two sides had adopted terms, avoiding further litigation. He added that the agreement is final, awaiting only a judge’s signature.

With light fixtures still in place to shine on a dingy empty screen, the billboard stands at 2661 Route 9, near the intersection of Lane Gate Road. In a decision on Nov. 26, 2002, a New York State Supreme Court (county level) judge ordered the billboard company to remove the sign, at the town’s request. At the time, Universal Outdoor Inc. owned the billboard and Clear Channel inherited the problem by succeeding Universal Outdoor.

According to Shea, the owner was allowed to delay removal of the sign long enough to recoup its investment. However, a 12-year limbo ensued.

In June, at the request of Philipstown Code Enforcement Officer Kevin Donohue, the Town Board authorized Cinque to go back to court to force the billboard’s removal. Cinque’s pursuit of the matter led to the agreement with Clear Channel.

Clear Channel now must act by Feb. 10, 2015, taking down all parts of the sign above ground, while leaving the underground foundation. Because of the wetlands around the structure, Clear Channel also must consult the town government before starting demolition.

“We’re going to want a work plan” to ensure the removal proceeds properly, Shea said.

He recalled that the town objected to the billboard 12 years ago “because it went in illegally, initially.” Installed “in a day,” it replaced a much smaller sign, to everyone’s surprise, he said. “It’s like four times the size [of the previous sign] and lighted. It’s got to come down.”

Councilors John Van Tassel, Dave Merandy, and Mike Leonard concurred, voting with Shea to accept the legal agreement. Councilor Nancy Montgomery could not attend the meeting.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Armstrong was the founding news editor of The Current (then known as in 2010 and later a senior correspondent and contributing editor for the paper. She worked earlier in Washington as a White House correspondent and national affairs reporter and assistant news editor for daily international news services. Location: Cold Spring. Languages: English. Areas of expertise: Politics and government