State should compensate Soldotna businesses who must remove signs
The people in Soldotna have found themselves in the middle of a really ridiculous situation. Many Soldotna business owners have invested large amounts of capital within area businesses. Many of these same area businesses have made large investments in signs for which right-of-way permits were legally obtained from the state. Most of these businesses would not have invested in these signs if they had not applied for and been issued legal right-of-way leases to display them. Many of these businesses have been paying annual permit lease fees for 10 to 30 years.
There is a big right-of-way problem now growing in Alaska. The state Department of Transportation has been illegally selling the unsuspecting Alaska public right-of-way permits for years. It has been doing this in direct violation of federal legislation, Title 23, Section 131. Because of this fraudulent action, each of these innocent permit holders are now due a full and complete refund of all paid lease fees.
The state has declared that the right-of-way encroachment permit system that it had been using for years is and was total illegal. The state collected thousands of dollars in encroachment permit fees for many years when all that time Title 23 federal legislation made those permits illegal.
The state of Alaska cannot illegally lease or sell right-of-way property in direct violation of Title 23 and then expect to retain those fraudulently windfall profits. The state appears to have participated in these fraudulent activities since the federal creation of Title 23, Section 131, in 1965.
If the state really wishes to correct its fraudulent right-of-way activities, it would need to fully refund all right-of-way lease fees back to 1965.
Each of these devices were fully paid for and lawfully erected under Alaska law. Legally, the state should then move to inform each person who invested in and erected an outdoor advertising sign, display or device on right-of-way land that the state will fully compensate each of its victims for the removal of these devices.
If the state of Alaska can admit to error with the federal government by admitting to allowing illegal Title 23, Section 131, devices, it can also admit to error regarding the people who trusted it and invested in its illegal advertising campaign.
The state of Alaska is currently behaving as if it lacks responsibility with regard to its historic fraudulent right-of-way sales actions and Title 23 Section 131 (g) "Just Compensation" liabilities. If Alaska continues to proceed along
this illegal path, it will again be violating federal Title 23 law along with its own anti-fraud law.
The most likely result of such illegal state actions will be class-action litigation from the many right-of-way sign victims left in the state's irresponsible wake.
It would be much more advisable and cost effective for the state to admit its illegal actions and compensate each victim without such litigation.
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