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Sylvania City Council is treading lightly on adopting a new sign code ordinance that may change the city’s temporary sign code which has been at the center of a constitutional debate since July.
On Friday, City Council President Mary Westphal said she was still weighing the information pertaining to proposed changes to the temporary sign code ordinance to ensure she makes the best possible decision for the community. Council is to vote on a sign ordinance at 7:30 p.m. today.
Until you’re at the council meeting and have heard all the information “anything can happen to influence someone’s position,” she said. That includes the possibility that another recommendation might be presented to council by a member.
Council members are split on the vote. Some members are considering changing the temporary sign law to “eliminating time with regards to political signs only, and others support the complete elimination of time limits for the signage,” Mrs. Westphal said.
“We are methodically working through this and want to take a measured approach to try to balance the various interests,” Jim Moan, law director, said. He was not present at the last meeting which caused some council members to delay the vote because they could not seek his legal advice on either proposed legislation.
City council has been discussing a change to its temporary sign code since resident Daniel Greenberg challenged the constitutional validity of the sign code ordinance in July. He was cited for displaying an Obama sign outside of the constraints of 70 days before an event and 7 days after. The city is in litigation with Mr. Greenberg.
The current sign code ordinance was crafted in 2006 to embrace the cyclical seasons of presidential and other political elections.
“We settled on 70 days [before] and 7 days after based on the election period starting on Labor Day,” Councilman Doug Haynam said. He pointed to the Painesville Bldg. Dept. vs. Dworken & Bernstein Co. case that the Ohio Supreme Court decided in 2000. In that case the city of Painesville’s sign code was found unconstitutional. It had said political signs could go up 17 days before a primary and were to be taken down 2 days after. The ruling said traditional campaigns started on Labor Day and found Painesville's time limits “over-restrictive.”
Mr. Haynam said recent Ohio Supreme Court judgments “have been made to show that time limits don’t work.” Mr. Haynam has recommended that the new code eliminate time limits in order to protect an individual's freedom of speech.