If you attended the Marco Island Planning Board’s meeting on April 20 you probably could of heard the popular 1970’s song that includes the catchy lyrics, “signs, signs everywhere a sign,” playing in your subconscious.
The Planning Board has been working on a referral from the city council to address an issue brought to their attention by Council Chairman Jared Grifoni, after a U.S. Supreme Court ruled against any consideration of “content” in regards to a community’s right to regulate signage.
Issues in the regulation of signs include:
Content Neutral Regulation is required. Rule is not based on message. A community may not regulate temporary signs and not political or campaign signs.
Viewpoint Neutral Regulation is required. Rules apply to all speakers equally and do not vary by message.
It is a complicated issue as it deals directly with the First Amendment of the Constitution and is a result of a ruling in the Supreme Court Case of Reed vs. Gilbert in 2015. In that case the court clarified when municipalities may impose content-based restrictions on signage. The Town of Gilbert, Arizona had adopted an ordinance which applied stricter regulations on which signs could be displayed in public areas. The ordinance imposed stricter regulations on signs advertising religious services than those being displayed for political or ideological messages.
Representatives of businesses on the island, non-profits and those in the real estate field have come forward to insure some of the discussions regarding the ability to continue to display signs on public and private property are protected. They have also questioned the use of on-premises and off –premises usage of signage.
The discussion at the Planning Board level has also included a review of the types and the size of signage that would be allowed. Representatives of Weiss Serota, the law firm that represents the city, have been answering a wide range of questions brought forward by board members.
Should signage be deemed non-conforming by a revised ordinance, the board has discussed granting a 10-year grace period to bring that signage into conformity. Should a sign be damaged due to a storm or other incident and the damage exceeds 50%, that signage would be required to be brought into conformity to the new ordinance.
Once the Planning Board finalizes its work, the ordinance will be referred to council for public hearings for adoption and possible amendments.