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Sylvania City Council passes new sign code ordinance removing time limits

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Sylvania's sign ordinance became an issue when Daniel Greenberg was cited for displaying an Obama sign outside of the time parameters. The city is in litigation with Mr. Greenberg, who filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court questioning the constitutional validity of the code’s time limits.

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After months of deliberation Sylvania City Council passed a new sign code ordinance Monday that removes all time limits from the temporary sign code. 

“The code removes time limits but strengthens and enhances that the signs that people do have must be in decent condition,” Councilman Doug Haynam said.

Before council voted 5-2 in favor of enacting the new legislation, Gary Sommer, a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals asked “what is temporary about something with no temporary restrictions?”

“It means less than a year,” Mr. Haynam responded. The signs can now be up for 364 consecutive days under the new ordinance.

After the Monday night’s council meeting Mr. Haynam, who proposed the new code, said that removing the time factor allows those with political yard signs to express their views without a time limit.

The previous code that was crafted in 2006 embraced the cyclical nature of national presidential elections, with temporary signs permitted to be displayed 70 days before an event and for up to seven days afterward. Mr. Haynam and member Mark Luetke have said in previous meetings said that presidential hopefuls are starting their political campaigns earlier than Labor Day, and that the new law should reflect that campaign change.

The temporary sign code became an issue when Sylvania resident Daniel Greenberg was cited for displaying an Obama sign outside of the time parameters. The city is in litigation with Mr. Greenberg, who filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court questioning the constitutional validity of the code’s time limits. 

“The question whether the sign code violates the First Amendment has now been removed,” Mr. Haynam said.

Two members, City Council President Mary Westphal and member Sandy Hussman voted against the legislation.

“I voted against the proposed change because I value the opinion of the planning commission, and they voted no on the change,” Mrs. Westphal said.

The planning commission rejected the proposed ordinance, 4-0, in February. The support of five members was needed to pass the new legislation.

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

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