Legal: Potential impact on FL’s city sign codes; Restrictions on the number of signs per yard at risk

Legal: Potential impact on FL’s city sign codes; Restrictions on the number of signs per yard at risk

Photo:  Will Warasila, New Yorker

“The small city of Bel-Nor, Missouri is at least temporarily blocked from enforcing a local law that restricts homeowners from displaying more than one sign at a time on their property, under a federal appeals court ruling issued on Monday.

Lawrence Willson, who owns and lives in a single-family home in Bel-Nor, sued the city in January 2018, alleging the ordinance trammeled his free speech rights and other constitutional protections. The city cited him because he had three signs in his yard.

One said ‘Black Lives Matter,’ another ‘Clinton Kaine’ and the third ‘Jason Kander U.S. Senate.’ Each of the signs is about 18 by 24 inches, according to Tony Rothert, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, who is representing Willson.

“In our view, a one-sign restriction is too restrictive of speech,’ Rothert said by phone on Monday.

He went on to describe yard signs as an important form of speech with a ‘communicative value that is unmatched’ in other mediums.

‘It’s different than buying a billboard, or taking out an ad in the paper, or even writing a letter to the editor, to put what you believe in front of your home,’ Rothert said.

The city has argued that its ordinance is ‘content-neutral’ and regulates all sorts of signs in the same way, and is therefore not subject to heightened legal scrutiny. It has cited traffic safety, especially preventing distractions for drivers, as a main consideration with the sign restrictions…

A federal district court last March denied Willson’s motion for a preliminary injunction, which would have prevented Bel-Nor from enforcing the law, at least while the court case played out.

But a three-judge panel for the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has now reversed that decision.

In an 11-page ruling, the court said Willson is likely to succeed on the merits of his free speech challenge under the First Amendment against the local government ordinance and sent the case back to the lower court for further proceedings.

A Bel-Nor police officer in June 2017 left Willson a written warning that by displaying his three signs he was violating part of the city code, according to the complaint Willson filed in federal district court.

The code, at that time, limited residential property to one ‘political advertising’ sign and said ‘political signs’ had to be removed within 15 days after an election.”

— Bill Lucia, Route Fifty

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“Central Florida City Moves to Crack Down on Snipe Signs”

“Central Florida City Moves to Crack Down on Snipe Signs”

Photo: Dave DeJohn, Spectrum News

“The street advertisements known as snipe signs can be found littering many major roadways, and officials in Tavares are moving to crack down.

The city has won several beautification awards, and officials don’t want the signs ruining that.

Tavares spokesman Mark O’Keefe said the city’s Code Enforcement officers remove the signs, only to see them go right back up again. At a meeting recently, City Administrator John Drury and City Council members discussed the issue with police officials and decided to step up enforcement by citing chronic offenders.

‘Snipe signs scattered throughout your whole community are not very attractive, and so we’re looking at bringing the enforcement up to the next level to curtail the number of snipe signs that are rampant throughout Tavares,’ Drury said then.

So now they are having police issue $100 fines to repeat offenders.

‘The citizens of Tavares and the public administration have noticed an ever increasing litter problem created by these items called snipe signs,’ O’Keefe said.

Antwan Brown, who owns a lawn care business, has seen his share of roadside debris, including plenty of snipe signs.

‘Sometimes the paper comes off of them, and then you’re stuck with the metal piece in the ground or (they) wind up laying down on the ground. Then when you’re not paying attention, trying to get the job done real fast, the metal part ends up shooting out into traffic and now you got a problem,’ Brown said…”

— Dave DeJohn, Spectrum News

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“‘Let us have the flags’: Santa Rosa County sign crackdown upsets small businesses”

“‘Let us have the flags’: Santa Rosa County sign crackdown upsets small businesses”

Photo: Gregg Pachkowski, Pensacola News Journal

“Santa Rosa County has been cracking down on unlawful snipe and feather signs in front of businesses.

Santa Rosa County Commissioners were at a near deadlock Monday about whether to pull back enforcement of the county’s feather sign ordinance, which has angered small business owners as the revamped code enforcement department has implemented a crackdown in recent weeks…

The problem is that although the ordinance regarding feather signs has been in the county books for decades, it hasn’t actually been enforced until last month. Multiple small business owners who have been using feather signs for years told commissioners they were surprised to learn they were prohibited.

Eric Vines, who owns a small business called Cellular Nerd, said he was visited by code enforcement and asked to remove his signs. He called the ordinance ‘misleading’ and said the rules ‘don’t make any sense.’

District 2 Commissioner Bob Cole said it wasn’t the board’s intent to hurt small businesses when it opted to strengthen the code enforcement department in January, and added that ‘it’s my fault for perhaps not reading the code long and hard enough.’

‘Derelict vessels, derelict automobiles, derelict housing, tattered signs, and the snipe signs that are on public property … in the public right of way, were my concerns,’ Cole said. “It certainly wasn’t to involve businesses and hurt businesses…”

But County Attorney Roy Andrews and County Administrator Dan Schebler warned against ceasing to enforce all sign ordinances, saying it could open up a “Pandora’s box” and lead to rampant sign usage throughout the county.

‘To me, this is about what do we want Santa Rosa County to look like?’ Schebler said. ”

— Annie Blanks, Pensacola News Journal

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New Alachua County Ordinance Gives Citizens Right To Throw Away Signs Left On Public Property

New Alachua County Ordinance Gives Citizens Right To Throw Away Signs Left On Public Property

Photo: Marianna Faiello/WUFT News

“Signs in colors ranging from the patriotic red, white and blue to eye-catching yellows, oranges, greens and more. You can’t avoid seeing them this time of year, especially with an election on Tuesday.

‘It’s ugly,’ said Alachua County Commissioner Mike Byerly. ‘They’re everywhere…’

While it’s permitted for signs to be placed anywhere on private property, the public’s land cannot be used for advertising purposes, political or otherwise. And this includes rights-of-ways — areas of publicly-owned land maintained in and around public streets.

A county code prohibited citizens from removing signs illegally placed in rights-of-way because it was state property. The responsibility of removal was left to public work crews — until recently.

Right-of-way sign placement became the focus at a recent board of county commissioners’ meeting. By the time the meeting was over, changes were made to an ordinance that limited the removal of signs.

The changes are now in effect.

Now it’s legal for regular citizens to remove right-of-way signs and destroy them.

The board of commissioners also changed the code to define illegally placed signs as abandoned property and trash so that public work crews can throw them away. Before, crews had to bring such signs back to a holding facility.

Byerly worked with Corbin Hanson, a county attorney, to change the ordinance’s wording so that anyone can remove signs that are placed illegally — meaning placement that doesn’t meet the city, county or state standards set by the Transportation Department…”

— Marianna Faiello,WUFT

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“City of Melbourne looking to eliminate snipe signs popping up around the area”

“City of Melbourne looking to eliminate snipe signs popping up around the area”

Photo: City of Melbourne

“The City of Melbourne is asking for the public’s help in eliminating the blight of illegal snipe signs…

‘Snipe signs are illegal in the City of Melbourne primarily for safety reasons,’ said Officer Cheryl Mall.

‘They are visually distracting– especially when they are posted on stop or other traffic signs. They are also a hazard during a hurricane or strong storm and are a form of litter that blights roadways and neighborhoods.’

Code enforcement officials remove snipe signs whenever they see them. However, often as early as the next day many more are put in their place.

In order to put a stop to this illegal behavior, code officials need to know who is placing the signs so that they can contact that person and begin the compliance process…

If you see someone posting a sign like the image shown above, officials ask you to send a photo of the person, the person’s car and if possible the license plate to City’s Code Enforcement Division at

Code enforcement officials will then use that information to contact the person who is placing the illegal signs and inform him or her that the placement of snipe signs is illegal…”

— Space Coast Daily
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Jacksonville: “Homeowners claim city removed Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA) signs from yards”

Jacksonville: “Homeowners claim city removed Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA) signs from yards”

Video: News4Jax
“Some homeowners claim workers with the city of Jacksonville removed signs they placed in their front yards opposing the sale of JEA.

Residents in Oceanway posted anti-sale signs in their yards. They told News4Jax on Monday someone from the city came and collected them over the weekend.

Photos show a city worker from the code-enforcement staff picking up some of the signs. Some were illegally placed on public property, but a resident said they yanked one of the signs from her yard.

‘I paid for that sign, and I have the right to display that sign on private property,’ a homeowner, who wished to remain anonymous, said. ‘I want my sign back.’

News4Jax reached out to the city of Jacksonville about the removal of the signs. It released a statement:
‘These snipe signs were posted illegally in the right-of-way based on City ordinance 741.102. Municipal Code Compliance officers work seven days a week removing any snipe sign that violates City ordinance, which may include penalties as defined in ordinance 741.107’…”

— Jim Piggott,Nick Jones, News4Jax

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