Mediation Stalls in Billboard Dispute
The mediation concerning the River Ridge Commerce Center and the town of Utica and others has been put on hold, but both sides are still hopeful a trial is not imminent.
The Commerce Center is taking steps to prepare for a jury trial, but hoping it does not reach that point. The dispute arose from a lawsuit filed by the center against the town of Utica, the property owner linked to the plot of land, and Outfront Media. It was related to seven permits that were issued by Utica for billboards.
According to River Ridge, the center opposes the digital billboards. Three are already in place. They believe the existing billboards and the ones scheduled to be installed detract from the area’s natural beauty. They also believe they are in violation of a zoning ordinance and that Utica violated the ordinance when the permits were issued.
The lawsuit, filed in September, resulted in everyone involved heading to mediation after voting to give negotiations a shot. Mediation proceedings began in November, but the groups only met one time.
According to the attorney for the city, there was no River Ridge decision-maker in attendance, which is why he believes no resolution was reached. There were representatives there, but no board members, nor anyone else with the authority to commit to a resolution.
Everyone involved has been vocal about wanting to avoid a trial. Utica town officials do not believe a trial fits into the budget.
At this point, it is possible the sides will return to mediation and give it another attempt. There might be other solutions on the table, too, that still help the parties avoid going to trial.