United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Oxford Division
B. BIGGERS, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
cause comes before the court upon the defendant's motion
to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for
failure to state a claim. Upon due consideration of the
motion, response, and applicable authority, the court is
ready to rule.
and Procedural Background
plaintiff, Bayou Vista, LLC, (“Bayou”) owns a
vacant sixteen-square-foot parcel of property within the
limits of the City of Oxford, the defendant in this action.
The property previously contained a billboard, but no
billboard has existed on the property since approximately a
year prior to the plaintiff's acquiring it by virtue of a
sheriff's deed dated December 15, 2015. The previous
owner of the parcel was Sun South, LLC. The property was
originally outside the city limits of Oxford but was annexed
in 2006. Bayou brings this action to challenge the
constitutionality of a sign ordinance adopted by the City in
2013. Bayou seeks a declaratory judgment, injunctive relief,
and damages for alleged violations of its federal and state
constitutional rights, asserting that the defendant's
actions amount to a taking without just compensation.
City enacted an ordinance in 1990 limiting all new billboards
to industrial zones. All existing, non-compliant billboards
were grandfathered under this ordinance. In 2004, the City
amended its Land Development Code to require the removal of
non-conforming signs, including billboards, within a
five-year amortization period. This period was extended by an
additional two years in 2009. After this period expired,
Lamar OCI South Corporation (“Lamar”), which is
not a party to the present litigation, filed two lawsuits
against the City seeking a declaratory judgment that the
City's sign ordinance was unconstitutional and seeking
damages for the removal of eleven non-compliant billboards
Lamar owned and operated within the City.
and the City reached an agreement to settle these lawsuits in
late 2013 while the cases were pending in federal court. As
part of the settlement agreement, the City enacted an
ordinance allowing Lamar to place two digital billboards in
certain areas of the City under restricted circumstances and
parameters. The signs could only be placed on property
located on Highway 6 in an area zoned General Business no
less than 1000 linear feet apart, nowhere east of County Road
165 on the north side of Highway 6 and nowhere east of
Thacker Road on the south side of Highway 6. Any landowner
whose property did not meet these conditions was not
permitted to erect or maintain a billboard structure. The
ordinance further provides as follows:
A total of two back to back digital billboards shall be
permitted on Hwy 6 West in an area zoned general business in
accordance with the regulations included in this Section and
upon issuance of a permit by the City. No. permit for a
digital sign shall be issued unless the applicant first
demonstrates the removal of no less than four existing
non-conforming billboards located within the City of Oxford.
A second permit for a digital billboard shall not be issued
unless the applicant has demonstrated the removal of four
additional existing non-conforming billboards located within
the City of Oxford. All non-conforming billboards within the
City of Oxford shall be removed within a 12-month period from
the adoption of this Section.
11-4]. At the time this ordinance was passed, a billboard was
situated on the subject property and was allegedly generating
income. In accordance with the terms of the settlement
agreement and the 2013 ordinance, Lamar removed the billboard
from this property in 2014.
ordinance was read before the public at an open meeting on
September 3, 2013. A public hearing on the proposed ordinance
was held on September 17, 2013, and the City voted to pass
the ordinance in an open meeting on October 15, 2013. The
ordinance not only settled the Lamar litigation, it
guaranteed a drastic reduction in the number of
non-conforming billboards within the City limits. Lamar
removed the billboard from the subject property on September
30, 2014, and canceled its lease agreement with Bayou's
predecessor in interest on October 1, 2014.
survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Id.
to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) are viewed with disfavor and
are rarely granted.” Lormand v. U.S. Unwired,
Inc., 565 F.3d 228, 232-33 (5th Cir. 2009). A court must
accept all well-pleaded facts as true and must draw all
reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Id.
But the court is not bound to accept as true legal
conclusions couched as factual allegations. Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 678.
ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court
generally may not look beyond the pleadings. Cinel v.
Connick, 15 F.3d 1338, 1341 (5th Cir. 1994).
Matters of public record and matters of which the court may
take judicial notice as well as documents attached to the
complaint are exceptions. Id. at 1343 n.6;
Lovelace v. Software Spectrum, Inc., 78 F.3d 1015,
1017 (5th Cir. 1996). Further, “[d]ocuments
that a defendant attaches to a motion to dismiss are
considered part of the pleadings if they are referred to in