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Sign company had no vested right to have permit processed under old ordinance

January 17th, 2011

by Melanie Thwing

Lamar v. City of Kansas City
(Missouri Court of Appeals, November 9, 2010)

In September 2007, the City Council of Kansas City, Missouri passed an amendment to its code of ordinances.  The amendment prohibited outdoor signs with “revolving, moving, flashing, blinking, or animated characteristics.”  The amendment also provided that until the amendment went into effect no permits for altering outdoor signs were to be approved.  

Lamar had filed a permit application with the city two days before the enactment of the ordinance.  Because of the pending ordinance city staff refused to process Lamar’s application until after the ordinance was passed. In district court Lamar argued that the permits should have been processed immediately based on the ordinances that were in effect at the time of application.  The district court disagreed and summary judgment was granted to the City. Lamar appealed to the Court of Appeals.

The court looked to previous rulings which held that “the mere filing of an application gave the applicant no vested right under the old ordinance.” From these the court holds that just filing an application is not enough to provide a vested right. Rather, the owner “must have reasonably relied upon a belief that the existing law would continue to be in force.” This requires not only a reliance on the continuation of the ordinance, but also a reasonable belief.

The Missouri Court of Appeals ultimately held that Lamar had no vested right to have its permit processed under the old ordinancem and dismissed the case.

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