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Signs Content neutral sign regulations: on premise vs off premise

bureaucrat#3

Member
Messages
116
Points
8
Does anyone know of a good ordinance that does not distinguish between off premise and on premise? It sounds like our state will be hearing a case on this subject and we typically side with billboard companies cause "business rights over government regulation."

I'm trying to figure out if those ordinances just let people put up whatever or if they ratchet down sign size so there's not much leftover for off-premise signage.

My personal opinion is that you can regulate off-premise vs on-premise and still be content-neutral, but I know different appeals courts have ruled differently.
 

Dan

Dear Leader
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
19,161
Points
71
That's correct. Sign regulations (in the US) can control time, place, and manner. "Place" doesn't just mean siting on a building or lot, but also whether it's on or off the lot.

You can also prohibit signs as a principal use on a lot; control sign size ("manner"; the smallest standard billboards are 5' x 12' eight-sheet signs); and/or just ban billboards and define the term carefully. I like the Canadian term "third party sign".

Federal courts don't consider billboard bans restriction of free speech, because there's other ways to advertise. However, there's a few states where elected officials and judges seem to be on the payroll of the outdoor advertising industry, and municipal billboard bans are prohibited. I think Pennsylvania is one of them.

Billboards are a fixed physical improvement on the land, so they should be included in property tax assessments, like any other revenue-generating structure.
 

bureaucrat#3

Member
Messages
116
Points
8
Its my understanding that the latest court of appeals are split over whether regulating off-premise vs on-premise is content neutral. The 9th Circuit (West Coast) has said cities can make distinctions based on a San Francisco case. The 5th Circuit (TX, LA, MS) has ruled that Austin's ban on off-premise digital billboards is a content based decision. It looks like a 6th Circuit (Kentucky, Tennessee, Michigan, Ohio) has ruled against Kentucky's billboard ordinance.

We currently ban off-premise signs, but another city in the state is getting challenged on their ordinance. I think its only a matter of time before we lose the ability to make this distinction.
 
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