Carrie Rengers

New Kellogg digital billboard is in dispute

Except for a visit from Westar Energy, Nazir Jesri says he and his brother, Ammar, are ready to turn on their new digital billboard in front of their businesses at 12225 E. Kellogg.

There may be another snag, though.

James McMaster, who does business as Bugga Outdoor Advertising, has filed a lawsuit against the brothers, Jesri Investment and TWI Construction to get a temporary restraining order and a permanent injunction against the sign.

Jesri says he had his billboard’s pole placed in the ground Sept. 8.

“Guess what September 8 was?” he says. “That’s when they filed the lawsuit.”

The lawsuit shows it was filed Sept. 8 in Sedgwick County District Court.

McMaster couldn’t be located for comment, and his lawyer didn’t return calls for comment.

The Jesris own Absolute Natural Stones and a Taylor Rental franchise. They also formed NBA Digital Billboards to erect this billboard.

“We thought the sign business is a good fit for us to be able to advertise the other businesses we have,” Nazir Jesri says.

He says he plans for the sign to advertise other people’s businesses as well.

“When we started the process about 14 months ago, we went to the metropolitan planning commission,” Jesri says. “We went through all the steps we needed to go through with the city and the state to get these permits.”

He says the Wichita City Council approved the billboard, which is one of only five allowed in a one-mile section of Kellogg.

“Ours was the fifth one,” Jesri says.

According to the lawsuit, McMaster has three signs along one mile of Kellogg, one of which was damaged in a tornado. The suit says there are two other billboards there as well and that the city “is under the mistaken impression” that McMaster’s billboard has been abandoned.

“Plaintiff has never intended to abandon the damaged sign,” the suit says. It further says McMaster never was notified the sign would be considered abandoned if he didn’t act within a certain period of time.

John Cox Jr., a supervisor with the Metropolitan Area Building and Construction Department, says McMaster’s sign had been a nonconforming billboard. He says it was in single-family zoning, which does not allow those kinds of signs, but had been grandfathered in.

Cox says if there is damage to more than 50 percent of a nonconforming sign, then it loses its status.

“It was also abandoned either during or prior to the damage,” Cox says.

He says McMaster’s sign is mere metal poles with some cross sections, and the county viewed it as abandoned.

“It would not be allowed to be rebuilt in that location.”

As for the Jesris’ sign, Cox says, “I would say the permit was legally issued.”

In the suit, McMaster says he’s been notified by the state that he has until May 2015 to repair the sign. A copy of that letter is an exhibit in the lawsuit.

The suit further says McMaster and his company “will be irreparably harmed” if the Jesris are able to continue with their sign “and this will diminish the revenue that the Plaintiff will be able to earn from his three (3) signs which have been at their location for more than 30 years.”

Jesri says the last time a tornado came near that area of Kellogg was in April 2012.

“I wonder how much that sign has made him for the last two and a half years,” Jesri says. “Oh, I know, I know – zero. I mean, come on.”

Jesri says he thinks the suit is without merit.

“I think it’s going to be thrown out.”

Reach Carrie Rengers at 316-268-6340 or crengers@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @CarrieRengers.

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