Sylvania City Council will have their legal counsel explore new language changes to the current sign code that will consider time restraints on signs tied to an event - with the exception of political signs.
During the public hearing that took place at Monday's council meeting, members discussed the legality of keeping the current sign code, with the exclusion of political signs.
“Why can’t we put a sentence after the time limits that just says these time limits do not apply to political signs,” Mayor Craig Stough suggested.
The Mayor’s proposed solution would possibly deter the legal battle with a resident over the constitutionality of the current code and whether it restricts freedom of speech, while at the same time control the proliferation of signs displaying non-political events like garage sales.
Council members agreed that the solution should be further explored to ensure the city is not in this situation again.
Councilman Todd Milner pointed to a religious sign on a resident’s lawn that quoted scripture or advertised a religious belief by a church, and said that he did not want to infringe on other potential First Amendment rights.
“Are we dancing around the fringes here with other issues and possibly be back in court?” Mr. Milner asked.
Members concurred that there was a difference between signs that announced an event, and those that fall under the codes for temporary signs that may convey an expression, such as religious views, which can be up for up to one year, and can be no more than 9 square feet in size.
Council members voted that the issue would not be decided until a constitutional lawyer vetted the new language and ensured it balanced freedom of speech with sign clutter. Councilman Mark Luetke noted that the culture of the presidential race and when candidates campaign has changed and thus the city should change along with it.
The City of Sylvania is being sued by resident Daniel Greenberg for citing him after he placed a political sign in his yard in July 2012, more than 70 days before the presidential election.
In other news, council heard residents' opinions about proposed language that would require that recreational vehicles be stored 3 feet from the property line. A resident who keeps his pleasure boat on a concrete pad and fenced in, asked that council consider whether the boat or vehicle can be seen. Mayor Stough said that point would be brought to the planning commission.
The new code was proposed primarily for safety reasons, so that firefighters could reach the back yard, noted councilman Doug Haynam. Council voted to send the proposed to the planning commission for review and recommendation. The issue will also be subject to a public hearing March 13 at 5:30 p.m.
Another code that will be referred to the Planning Commission was a proposed restriction that would restrict illuminated tube lighting for businesses that use neon lighting in areas that face residential districts. However, if passed it would grandfather in Flower Hospital’s neon-green lights, which were what influenced the revision.
Councilman Michael Brown was absent from the public hearing and the city council meeting that followed.