Brunswick political sign rule comes under fire as ‘unconstitutional’

Posted May 29, 2014, at 10:06 a.m.

BRUNSWICK, Maine — The Town Council is expected to discuss proposed changes to the town’s ordinance regulating political signs, in order to avoid possible future litigation.

Planning board members accepted changes to the town’s zoning ordinance at its meeting Tuesday, sending the issue on to the council.

The current ordinance prevents residents from erecting political signs more than 60 days before an election.

Some residents, like Michelle Small, who spoke at Tuesday’s planning board meeting, contend that the rule is a violation of their First Amendment right to free speech.

The ordinance is “unconstitutional on its face,” Small said, reminding the board that Alfred, Lewiston and Farmington all pledged not to enforce similar ordinances after the American Civil Liberties Union warned them about the ordinances in 2012.

In an April 28 letter to Town Council Chairman Benet Pols, Town Attorney Stephen E. Langsdorf agreed the town’s rule is unconstitutional, citing several federal court decisions that struck down similar municipal restrictions.

Planning board members agreed to approve changes to the town’s zoning ordinance to strike any reference to time limits for signs prior to an election. They also suggested language to the Town Council that would extend the time to take down signs after an election from five to 10 days.

 

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