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Sylvania council votes to table changes to sign code

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Dan Greenberg and his 7.5 year-old daughter Nina at their Obama/Biden yard sign outside their home in Sylvania. The city had ordered him to take the sign down because it violated a city ordinance that prohibits yard signs from being erected more than 70 days before an event.

The Blade/Jetta Fraser
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Sylvania City Council voted Monday night to table proposed changes to the city's temporary sign code that has been at the center of a constitutional debate since last July.

City Council agreed with a recommendation from the Zoning and Annexation Committee, which met before the council meeting, to table a vote on any new sign code legislation. Council member Katie Cappellini and Law Director Jim Moan were absent.

The current code allows signs to be placed in a homeowner’s yard 70 days prior and seven days after an event.

The two proposals being considered would either eliminate time limits for all temporary signs, or exempt political signage from time constraints.

Before the committee meeting, council member Doug Haynam indicated that he expected city council to vote on the ordinance. However, after a five-minute executive session taken during the full council meeting, members unanimously agreed to table the vote until 7:30 p.m., April 15.

The City of Sylvania is in litigation with resident Daniel Greenberg, who challenged the constitutional validity of the current sign code law.

Mr. Greenberg was cited by City of Sylvania for placing an Obama/Biden political sign in his yard during the presidential race in July, more than 70 days before the presidential election. He sued the city in U.S. District Court last year, contending that Sylvania's sign ordinance violates the First Amendment.

In February, the planning commission rejected Mr. Haynam’s proposal to remove all time limits for temporary signs that do not require a permit. Mr. Haynam, who is also the chair of the Zoning and Annexation Committee, said that the proposed amendment is still being considered by council. A total of five votes is needed to pass the legislation.

At Mayor Craig Stough’s suggestion, a second proposal is being considered that would keep the current code, but add that political signs are exempt from time limitations.

Council members have indicated that time limits in the current code were put in place to deter a proliferation of garage sale signs, and was not meant to target or limit freedom of speech.

Mr. Haynam said that during the zoning and annexation meeting, committee members expressed concerns about the proposed codes and pending litigation.

“We need to fix our code to make it clear that in Sylvania the First Amendment applies,” Mr. Haynam said.

Contact Natalie Trusso Cafarello at: 419-206-0356 or ntrusso@theblade.com.

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