Letter to the Editor: Thoughtful Revision Over Radical Repeal

When it comes to political sign regulations, this letter writer favors revision over repeal.


To the Editor:

The Woodbury Zoning Commission recently viewed a photo of a political “billboard” four times the size of a pickup truck decorating a commercial property in Southbury. Sooner or later something like that behemoth could be on residential lawns in Woodbury if the commission repeals its regulation limiting the size of political signs. If the current regulation cannot stand, thoughtful revision, not radical repeal, should be considered.

The revision the commission saw in its recent workshop is a reasonable starting point. Political signs would be regulated according to the type of zoned district in which they appear. Where large signs are allowed, large political signs would be OK. In residential neighborhoods smaller signs would have to suffice.  But there would be no political "billboards." The town attorney has written, “this proposed revision is as defensible as any other regulation would be,” and that it “seems to satisfy the principles of case law on the subject.”

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said, “It is common ground that governments may regulate the physical characteristics of signs — just as they can, within reasonable bounds and absent censorial purpose, regulate audible expression in its capacity as noise.”

If, however, allowing signage to “bellow” rather than “speak” is more important to some people than the character and appearance of Woodbury, they should at least consider safety. Setback limits on mega-signs, or gradations of size based on distance from the roadway (as is done in section 7.5.11 H) would preclude billboard-type signs from the edges or intersections of roads or from obscuring driveways.  Preserving sightlines will prevent accidents.

The zoning commissioners are conscientious people who listen. Speak or write to them in support of a regulation that balances free speech with the rights of property and safety.

William A. Monti, Woodbury

Don Sherman September 05, 2012 at 01:03 AM
Perhaps we should throw the Constitution and Bill of Rights away and start over. It's just an outdated document that causes dissent among the people. Look at the overwhelming number of people who disagree with what it stands for! They are the majority; they should rule! Anyone who believes they need an old piece of paper to prop up their antiquated ideas just isn't living in the present. If we get rid of the Constitution, the people with the higher intellect and the responsibility of providing for people not bright enough to care for themselves will finally be able to direct every aspect of life. Why would you want more?
Sean M September 05, 2012 at 01:12 AM
I see that Bill Monti still has not done his homework since his last letter. Since he is clearly not interested in putting the truth out, I will. 1. The billboard he refers to was from a Chris Shays supporter who drove around CT advocating for Chris Shays. I know the man personally. If something like this were to come up, it would have no relevance to the political sign regulations being discussed. 2. Was there ever a problem before 1996 when the current sign regulations were passed? 3. Bill is using Alinsky tactics like calling this repeal radical. The only thing radical is his arrogance by refusing to disclose what the town attorney has said on the matter. Monti uses bits and pieces to "defend" his position. 4. When Monti uses a quote from the town attorney "this proposed revision is as defensible as any other regulation would be." You have to read the entire legal opinion to see Monti is taking what Atty Roberts has said out of context. Here is the quote in context: "If the commission wishes to continue to have a "limit" on the amount of political signage on a property, this proposed revision is as defensible as any other regulation would be. The Commission may want to review the Mansfield example that I provided previously as an alternative approach to this issue." In Mansfield, they removed sign restrictions. I advise reading both legal opinions on political signs.
Sean M September 05, 2012 at 01:14 AM
5. Monti refers to Justice O'Connor. And what does one judge speaking in general have to do with this? Answer: Monti finds information that supports his case and ignores the rest. The first situation here is the CT Constitution has much stronger protections on free speech than does the US Constitution. Comparing a case in MD is a completely different situation than CT. Apples and oranges. Where is his case law dealing with CT? Perhaps Monti can read the large packet of case law furnished by Atty Roberts. In this is the "Substantial State Interest" concept. This was brought up by myself after reading the entire packet at the April 2012 meeting. You can see it under the revision of the minutes reflected in the May 2012 meeting. 6. It amazes me that Monti was on the Zoning Commission and never read the regulations. gives the authority to deal with safety issues on matters, including signs, to the commission. His lack of basic knowledge on this topic is embarrassing.
Voice of Reason September 05, 2012 at 11:53 AM
The size regulation is one that isn't needed. Woodbury and surrounding towns have enjoyed a long history of residents erecting larger Political signs. These signs have maintained the same general character for decades without "stepping it up" into billboards, animations, lighting etc. Should the regulation be passed it is quite likely to be challenged, at taxpayer expense, with no guarantee that the town will win. On the issue of safety. This author has not encountered one Political sign, regardless of Party, that I felt was placed in an unsafe area.
Jon Quint September 05, 2012 at 03:16 PM
I have a very simple question. SEC. 5 of The Connecticut Constitution states, "No law shall ever be passed to curtail or restrain the liberty of speech or of the press". What part of "NO LAW" does Mr. Monti not understand? I know it totally disagrees with his agenda, but I would suggest if he doesn't like it, he go about the LEGAL way of changing it and get the Constitution amended.
Sean M September 05, 2012 at 08:16 PM
The Zoning Commission has been told more than once their current regulations are unconstitutional. The problem is Martin Overton does not know what to do because now that the rest of the commission knows what is going on, he cannot ram his personal agenda through. The real problem is and always has been Martin Overton.
tom arras September 05, 2012 at 09:09 PM
Does Bill Monti seriously want those owning property in one part of Town to have different rights of display( different rights of free speech ) than those owning property elsewhere as his letter implies? I guess he's sure not one for equal rights. Is it me, or does it seem like many of the democrats commenting on this issue would like to infringe upon the rights of others as they feel the situation warrants? I think the Constitution applies equally to all citizens, and I continue to support that.
Sean M September 06, 2012 at 02:37 AM
Sure sounds like it Tom. But thankfully, Democrats dumped Monti in November. Given how he conducts himself, sounds like the right decision was made.
Sean M September 06, 2012 at 10:59 PM
I did not realize until today that I can post documents on letters. I have attached the two legal opinions on political signs. Anyone can clearly see that Bill Monti is only telling part of the story here.
Voice of Reason September 07, 2012 at 04:16 PM
I'd like to touch on the issue of safety again as it seems to be the “go to” topic whenever the “regulators” don't get their way. As I've stated several times, I've not seen one instance of these signs having been placed in such a way so as to block the sight lines. With no counter to this the regulators then suggest the issue is still safety but more specifically that it is, they feel, the signs are a distraction to motorists. This is how stupid they think we all are, that we can't navigate a road without a sign being so distracting that we won't get in an accident. To this I ask; what about other traffic, pedestrians, bicyclists, animals, children playing, trees, a new to flower shrub or countless other things? Sorry guys, but the general populace is smarter than you give them credit for. Further, if you really were in favor of safety you'd be pushing for nothing but bigger signs as they are easier to read. In reading some of the comments in support of more regulations I'm reminded of a bad B movie. I envision the cover artwork to depict a crowd running in fear as a large political sign politely yet ominously sits in the background. “The sky was angry that day my friends, the sky was angry”, “Yes it was, indeed it was....”. It is “Attack of the Killer Signs”, ahhhhhh........ As for the “ugly” issue, well, I'll have a boatload of complaints to file with several towns if we are to take that road. Lol.
Voice of Reason September 07, 2012 at 04:16 PM
To summarize a few facts. Woodbury has a long history of these signs. These signs have not been an issue until Mr. Arras put up his sign of protest. Mr. Arras is a vocal Republican. Current and past elected Democrat officials and DTC members have been the force behind this regulation issue. Complaints logged by Mr. Arras went ignored. This is a case of blatant partisanship and bullying by the Democrats in Woodbury. Shameful behavior guys. It is no wonder that folks have been reluctant to move certain businesses into Woodbury, you guys have a problem. Keep up with this sort of ridiculous regulating combined with the Regional School District issues and you will continue to have empty store fronts.


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