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Owners File LBJ Billboard Suit

DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - For Nic Stephens, congested roads, constant construction-- and oh yes, the billboards are just a part of the daily commute.

"I read them because they help keep me awake', says Stephens. "They're everywhere, you can't miss them."

Maybe. A lawsuit filed against the Texas Department of Transportation last week claims the height of new ramps under construction at the LBJ / Interstate 35 interchange will make their billboards less valuable, because they'll be less visible.

The lawsuit cites the Private Real Property Rights Preservation Act. According to J. Allen Smith, the plaintiffs' attorney, the law is "designed to protect property owners when government projects negatively impact property values." According to Smith, the law requires TxDot to complete what's called a "Takings Impact Assessment", to determine the impact on private property owners. The plaintiffs argue that the statute renders any such project "void' if the assessment is not conducted.

Dallas attorney Tom Brandt says it is a very technical issue that's being debated by attorneys-- but, bottom line, construction is not likely to stop.

"One group of lawyers for TxDot believes that the assessment does not need to be made, the lawyers for the billboard companies believe an assessment should have been made," says Brandt, a partner with Fanning Harper Martinson Brandt & Kutchin. "But, as a practical matter, the project is going to go forward because the lawsuit has not even asked for an injunction to be issued to stop the project."

And while construction weary commuters would not doubt love to see all of the torn up roads and detours disappear, this lawsuit isn't likely to make that happen.

"I believe we'll have to suffer with the construction continuing," says Brandt.

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