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Rowell helps win important case for City of Knoxville

February 25, 2016

Feb. 25, 2016

For more information:
Natalie Bailey
Moxley Carmichael
(865) 599-4051


The City of Knoxville is within its legal rights to regulate digital billboards, the Tennessee Court of Appeals said in an opinion released today.

“This is an important decision because it affirms that the governing body of the City of Knoxville may determine what legal restrictions apply to signs located within the city,” said attorney Nathan Rowell, one of the attorneys representing the City of Knoxville in the case.

Rowell, an attorney with Watson, Roach, Batson, Rowell & Lauderback who has nearly 20 years of legal experience on behalf of cities and counties, is running as a Republican in the March 1 election for Knox County law director.

“I was pleased to have been asked by the City of Knoxville Law Department to assist in this case,” Rowell said. “My colleague, Brian Bibb, and I are fortunate to have gained wide experience in municipal law through our association with the Watson Roach law firm, and we are able to use that knowledge for clients and be effective in cases such as this.”

The billboard case involved a challenge to the City of Knoxville’s restrictions on digital billboards from a national outdoor advertising company division, Lamar Tennessee LLC.

The Tennessee Court of Appeals, in an opinion written by Chief Judge Charles D. Susano Jr., denied the company’s appeal of a Knox County Chancery Court decision against the digital LED billboards and assigned court costs to the sign company.

Lamar attempted to convert two free-standing, vinyl boards to digital format at 6739 Kingston Pike near P.F. Chang’s Restaurant and at 406B North Peters Road near the former site of Knoxville Wholesale Furniture west of Cedar Bluff Road. The City of Knoxville objected, saying the conversion would violate the city’s zoning ordinances.

Lamar filed suit in Knox County Chancery Court, saying, among other contentions, that the digital billboards did not violate the city’s zoning ordinances and that the state permits digital LED billboards.

Rowell and Bibb argued on behalf of the city that the billboards did in fact violate city zoning regulations and that the regulations do not conflict with state law. Chancellor Daryl Fansler agreed with Rowell and the city, and Lamar appealed his decision.

After reviewing the record and the arguments, the appeals court said in this case “the City has enacted permissible limitations on digital displays for the purpose of maintaining esthetics and promoting safety” and upheld the Chancery Court decision.

Rowell, running for law director on a platform of being a professional and not a politician like the incumbent, said the billboard case is an excellent example of how he will use his experience to make decisions based on law and not politics.

“The citizens of Knox County deserve this kind of impartial and reasoned legal advice,” Rowell said.