A U.S. District Court has issued a preliminary injunction against the city of Perrysburg, saying it cannot bar the posting of political signs on private property.
Chip Pfleghaar, a candidate for city council, filed suit against the city, which had sent him a zoning enforcement letter for displaying a presidential campaign sign Nov. 23, 2016, more than two weeks after the November general election.
The front yard of Chip Pfleghaar's home in Perrysburg is adorned with his campaign signs.
Perrysburg’s zoning code only allows temporary signs 60 days prior and seven days after an event. Brody Walters, the city’s planning and zoning administrator, said he sent a letter to each candidate in this upcoming municipal election letting them know their signs were only permitted 60 days prior to Election Day and seven days after Election Day.
Cities and the general public can often overlook that yard signs are a free speech issue, said 1851 Center for Constitutional Law director Maurice Thompson, who represented Mr. Pfleghaar.
Mr. Pfleghaar said he placed signs advertising his candidacy in his yard last month. The city had not taken any enforcement action against those signs, although Mr. Walters had told Mr. Pfleghaar by email that his sign should be taken down until 60 days prior to the November general election. Penalties included a $100 a day fine.
The city did not contest Mr. Pfleghaar’s motion, and instead will attempt to amend the sign ordinances prior to September 26, when the parties will reconvene for a conference.
“The city made the right choice to essentially give up,” Mr. Thompson said, adding that the last remaining issue will be determining what, if any, damages exist from any residents affected by the law.
The injunction, issued by Judge Jeffrey Helmick, prevents the city from enforcing any part of the code that prohibits the posting of political signs on private property, limits the duration during which the signs may be displayed, or threatens fines or other penalties in response to the display of otherwise-compliant political signs.
In the past, Mr. Walters had said the city typically takes signs that do not comply with the sign code and discards them. The zoning department may seize up to 50 signs a month of varying subject matter, he said.
Neither Mr. Walters or Karlene Henderson, the city’s law director, were immediately available for comment.
The city of Sylvania went through a similar situation in 2012, when Daniel Greenberg was cited for placing a campaign sign outside of Sylvania’s 60-day window. The case was dismissed after the city amended its sign code by eliminating the time limit.