Protected or prohibited?

Update: Protected or prohibited?: The sequel (Jan 23, 2018), Protected or prohibited?: Continued (July 12, 2018), Protected or prohibited?: The sign saga continues. . . (Dec 19, 2018), and Protected or prohibited?: What now (Jan 29, 2019)

The Village of Flat Rock has a sign control ordinance (ordinance 78) that regulates what types of signs are permitted in the village along with requirements on size, placement, etc. The “Don’t urbanize Flat Rock” signs, which are temporary political signs, do not meet the ordinance definition of “political sign”: A sign designed to indicate the support of or opposition to a candidate, issue or proposition upon which voters may vote. There is no definition in the ordinance that covers a sign dealing with a village issue that does not have a ballot measure or vote attached.

The Cultural Landscape Group:Flat Rock has received word from the village administrator, in her role as sign enforcement officer and in consultation with the village attorney, that the “Don’t urbanize Flat Rock” yard signs are in violation of the sign control ordinance because they are considered advertising signs and are not allowed in residential districts. Therefore, they must be removed by Tuesday, Jan 23. 

We disagree. These signs express a political point-of-view, not sale of a product, and are protected noncommercial speech.

Based on several U.S. Supreme Court decisions [for example, City of Ladue v. Gilleo, 512 U.S. 43, 114 S. Ct. 2038 (1994) and Reed v. Town of Gilbert, 576 U.S.___(2015)], these signs should be allowed. For instance, the village sign control ordinance does not seem to be content-neutral: by permitting yard signs for the real estate and construction industries but not for you, a private property owner using your First Amendment rights on your own property, certain groups have been given precedence—and those preferred groups don’t include citizens expressing their political viewpoint.

For those who have put signs on your property, we wanted to let you know that the village is asking that they be removed by Jan 23. Let your voice continue to be heard and repurpose your signs for your car or truck.

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2 thoughts on “Protected or prohibited?

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  1. It’s great to see this group defending the signs on principle. It would seem the Village’s time would be better spent reworking the ordinance to remove the condition “upon which voters may vote.” Given the disparity you point out between how protected speech is treated v. allowing industries to promote themselves, one has to ask, “What is the underlying logic for this condition in the ordinance?” It does seem a priori to favor commercialism over free speech. Is that how the Village wants to be known? Is this situation not an example of “support of or opposition to an issue”? When a qualifier is placed on a statement of principle, responsible governance demands a defensible rationale.

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