The Utah Court of Appeals has reversed a district court ruling that had prevented the Utah Department of Transportation from removing two signs installed in 1976 along U.S. 89 in Davis County.

The owner, Reagan Outdoor Advertising of Salt Lake City, had installed the signs and then appealed an order by the transportation department that held that the signs were not in conformance with the Utah Outdoor Advertising Act.Before the appeal, the parties agreed to a stipulation that said if the billboards hadn't achieved conforming status by July 1981, the signs would have to come down.

But it was five years later, in 1986, when UDOT began to enforce the stipulation and ordered the signs taken down.

Reagan appealed to the district court, which ruled that by waiting five years, the department hadn't acted reasonably and shouldn't be allowed to enforce its order.

Reagan asserted it takes nine years for a billboard to pay back its construction cost, wrote Judge Pamela Greenwood for the court, and injury would result if the signs could not be in use for that long.

But to invoke the doctrine of equitable estoppel, injury to the complaining party must be shown, the decision said.

In fact, the ruling noted the construction of the signs was completed well before Reagan and UDOT entered into the stipulation for removal. The alleged injury did not result from UDOT's delay in taking action, Judge Greenwood wrote, but in fact the company benefited by having four more years in which to attempt to recoup costs.

It is impossible under the facts to prove the legal doctrines offered by Reagan, the decision said, adding "we hold that the trial court erred in concluding that UDOT was (stopped) from removing the billboards."