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Thread: Content neutral sign regulations

  1. #1

    Content neutral sign regulations

    Does anyone have any good examples of content neutral sign ordinances? I am in the process of doing a rewrite of our sign ordinance and am leaning toward content neutral (as is the Mayor and Board) and need some examples. Help?

  2. #2
    The APA has a nice free guide on Context Sensitive sign guidelines.

    http://www.planning.org/signs/index.htm
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  3. #3
    The APA guide is really helpful.

    Content Neutral? All sign ordinances are supposed to be content neutral. You are not legally allowed to regulate on the basis of content. That would be a violation of free speech.

  4. #4
    All sign ordinances are supposed to be content neutral. True. Most are not. I have not been able to find any good examples that are content neutral. They all have some regulations based on the content of the sign (such as political sign, real estate sign, etc.).

    Thanks for the link to the APA document. I hope that it will help.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    We recently went through the exercise of making our sign regulations content neutral. There's a few places where a sign lawyer has disagreed with us, but our County Counsel believes that it would now pass muster. Here's the link.

    =Bob


    http://www.sdcounty.ca.gov/dplu/docs/z6000.pdf

  6. #6
    Cyburbian SideshowBob's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by OhioPlanner
    The APA guide is really helpful.

    Content Neutral? All sign ordinances are supposed to be content neutral. You are not legally allowed to regulate on the basis of content. That would be a violation of free speech.
    So in other words, if a sign otherwise meets your standards, it can advertise something else? If a pizza parlor wants to use some of its signage to advertise for Target, it can do so?

    Put another way, it is not legal to say that signs must not be "off-premise," meaning that they cannot advertise something that does not occur on the site
    Fighting congestion by widening roads is like fighting obesity by buying larger clothes.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Otis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by SideshowBob
    So in other words, if a sign otherwise meets your standards, it can advertise something else? If a pizza parlor wants to use some of its signage to advertise for Target, it can do so?

    Put another way, it is not legal to say that signs must not be "off-premise," meaning that they cannot advertise something that does not occur on the site
    In Oregon, that is the case. I'm not sure about other states, however, since the free speech provision in Oregon's constitution is broader than that in the federal bill of rights.

  8. #8
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by SideshowBob
    Put another way, it is not legal to say that signs must not be "off-premise," meaning that they cannot advertise something that does not occur on the site
    Not so in NH. Off premise signs are entirely "bannable." You just have to be consistent in how they're treated, and cannot treat different types of speech differently.
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally posted by mcmplans
    Does anyone have any good examples of content neutral sign ordinances? I am in the process of doing a rewrite of our sign ordinance and am leaning toward content neutral (as is the Mayor and Board) and need some examples. Help?
    Go to Municode and lookup City of Miramar Florida - recently written by an attorney who is an expert in sign law. Also very detailed and illustrative (this being a community that is highly design-oriented).

  10. #10
    Cyburbian SideshowBob's avatar
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    Our Code is NOT content nuetral. For example, in a Residential zone, permitted businesses (typically Churches) can have signs that serve only to show the name and address of the business. We have a Church that wants moveable letters, but I said no.

    So should I enforce our code or should i allow any content to be constitutional?


    (I would like my job if not for signs )
    Fighting congestion by widening roads is like fighting obesity by buying larger clothes.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    True, standards for real estate signs and political signs are, by definition, regulated by content, but I think this is one area where even the most careful attorneys would feel comfortable with stepping into content. (I worked on several sign ordinances with a nationally recognizd sign expert and he didn't have a problem with singling out political and real estate signs as separate sign types). However, when you do regulate political signs, its a good idea to define them as signs related to any political issue, election, referendum, etc. Don't define them as signs related to an election for a specific candidate. Also, its safer as far as potential litigation to not say that they have to be taken down X number of days after the election, referendum, etc.

    Its also good to have a blanket statement saying that a noncommercial message may be substituted on a sign where there would normally be a commercial message. This substitution, though, does not waive any sign area, height, or other requirements.

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