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Specialty Graphic Imaging Association

Supreme Court of the United States Decision Having Lasting Effects

The June 18, 2015 decision on the case of Reed vs. Town of Gilbert, Arizona, which held that the town's sign ordinance was "content based" regarding restrictions and therefore unconstitutional, is having a lasting effect to drive more sign code revisions and changes. Numerous cities and towns across the country are still taking a long look at their sign regulations and measuring constitutional rights against the municipality’s interest.  

Recent examples of this ripple effect include Chesapeake, VA, Chino, CA, and Munster, IN.

In Chesapeake, VA, the city classifies signs based on type, such as public service or real estate, then sets standards that control the placement, size, quantity, and timing of display for each. At a recent meeting, City Council, not wanting unintended consequences from the code violating the court decision, directed the Planning Commission to look into proposed changes and review intitial proposals.

In Chino Hills, CA, the city attorney’s office recommended the city revise their sign code to comply with the court ruling and apply consistent standards to all signs. Part of the proposed change includes that political signs no longer require a permit or a deposit. The city determined a deposit could be considered an unconstitutional “prior restraint” to free speech by prohibiting residents from speaking until they have complied with a requirement. The local planning commission voted unanimously to recommend the changes, and is slated to make their final decision on July 12.

In Munster IN, the temporary signs section of their code took on a notable change. The new sign code now prohibits signs affixed to poles, flat printed signs, any type of flashing sign, window promotional signs and electronic signs. LED lights around the exterior of a building or around windows or doors also are also illegal. The idea for the revised sign code was pulled from other Indiana communities, including Carmel, Noblesville and Chesterton. Although restrictive, the city feels the new sign ordinance will be more user-friendly and understandable as it provides photographic examples of what signs are allowed and are not allowed.

More cities are expected to bring out new reviews or updates as they approach this subject in their codes.

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Publication/Release Date: 
Jun 30, 2016

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