U.S. Supreme Court ruling plays key role in city's reworking of sign code
When it comes to rules and regulations pertaining to signs on businesses and other public buildings, there's much more than meets the eye, according to the director of the Genesee County Department of Planning.
Felipe Oltramari provided some insight and background on the City of Batavia Planning & Development Committee's effort to rewrite its sign code, a several month process that initially focused on how to address electronic message board signs.
Tonight (6 o'clock at City Centre Council Chambers) city planners are expected to forward the revamped document to City Council and schedule a public hearing on the matter. Last week, the Genesee County Planning Board gave its approval to the new version.
The new code is "modernized," Oltramari said, and is "more legible and easier to enforce with ample use of graphics and tables."
Just as importantly, the code now lines up with the latest U.S. Supreme Court decisiion that limits governments from regulating signs based on content, Oltramari said.
"The current code addresses temporary signs differently based on whether they were political, for sale signs, event signs, etc.," Oltramari said. "The court case Reed v. Town of Gilbert that was decided last year at the Supreme Court said that signs are a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment and any regulation of the sign’s content was subject to strict scrutiny and had to be narrowly tailored to further a compelling government interest.
"This usually means that the sign’s content can only be regulated if it furthers health and safety of the community. Governments can only then regulate signs based on the time, place and manner -- such as duration, location and type and /materials. The new code sticks to those types of regulations."
Oltramari said other changes deal with procedure.
"The code is being streamlined so that all signs that conform to the standards of the code can be handled administratively only requiring a building permit from the City’s Code Enforcement Officer," he explained.
"Right now, a business that opens downtown and is only changing the sign and is proposing a sign that meets all the requirements of the code still has to go to the City’s Planning and Development Committee and the County Planning Board to get approval to go forward. The new code incentivizes applicants to conform to the code by eliminating the review by these boards ... saving a month or more of time."
Once approved, the new procedure for variances for signs in the city that do not conform because of dimensional requirements will go directly before the City's Zoning Board of Appeals, eliminating review by (and subsequent permit from) the city planning board and review by the county planning board, Oltramari said.
"Having the City’s ZBA handle these as variances is in harmony with State Law and will ensure more consistent interpretation of the code," he said.
He said that other changes include allowing exposed neon to be used in signage, and recognizing and allowing for backlit illuminated signs -- something that has increased in popularity due to the utilization of LED lighting.
Speaking of Signs,
"Signs, Signs, Everywhere Expensive Signs!" -- Sing it loud, and place your coins in the hat!
NY "state spent $1.77 million to erect 514 signs along highways."
And, "The standoff between the Cuomo administration and federal officials over highway tourism signs could become costlier and was completely avoidable."
Furthermore, “The federal Department of Transportation, in fact, told the state that signs were not allowed even before the first one went up, more than five years ago..." "But like a recalcitrant teenager, the state went ahead anyway...".
Another completely avoidable, costly misuse of NY taxpayer's money, by "King Andrew's" administration (and, it wouldn't surprise me if he digs deeper into the hole, fighting the federal Department of Transportation).
My only hope is that he keeps being elected governor of NY. That way, people in the other 49 states don't have to bow (and pay their tributes) to him.