Update: Protected or prohibited? (Jan 22, 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)
Following up with the village office on the legality of the “Don’t urbanize Flat Rock” signs, we asked via email:
In the [sign control] ordinance under Article IX, Administration, Enforcement and Appeals, it seems as though the sign enforcement officer should be sending a notice of violation to each sign owner by certified mail, return receipt requested, and then the property owner has 30 days to comply. After the 30 days, the property owner may be subject to civil penalties. Is this correct?
Today we received the following:
Regarding your email yesterday, I have attached excerpts from the sign control ordinance that might be helpful to people. Before sending notice of violations I will be pulling any sign that is within ten feet of the traveled way. After that I will follow the regulations as outlined in the ordinance for the remainder of the signs that are beyond ten feet from the edge of the traveled way.
So while property owners were initially asked to remove “Don’t urbanize Flat Rock” signs by today, the correct procedure as outlined in the sign control ordinance requires notifying, by certified mail, each property owner deemed in violation of the ordinance and then giving that property owner 30 days to comply.
The Cultural Landscape Group:Flat Rock continues to strongly disagree with the decision that these signs are considered advertising. The “Don’t urbanize Flat Rock” signs express a political point-of-view, not sale of a product, and are protected noncommercial speech. That belief is based on several U.S. Supreme Court decisions, including City of Ladue v. Gilleo, 512 U.S. 43, 114 S. Ct. 2038 (1994) and Reed v. Town of Gilbert, 576 U.S.___(2015).
Just one instance of different treatment is that 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 private property owners using a First Amendment right on their own property, certain groups have been given precedence—and those preferred groups don’t appear to include citizens expressing their political viewpoints. We consider this to be unconstitutional and think it should be corrected.