To the Editor:
I am encouraged by the discussion concerning the Woodbury Zoning Commission’s upcoming public hearing on regulation revisions which will include, among many others, a wording change to the maximum allowable aggregate sign area for political signs.
Unfortunately, too much of the debate has become political, and largely unhelpful, rhetoric.
Some examples of sign regulations challenges have been offered to the commission in support of a demand by a very small number of people to repeal Woodbury Zoning Regulation 22.214.171.124 -- Political Signs.
However, of particular note is that the references to rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court -- and the several others that I have reviewed -- refer to the court’s very narrow and specific decisions in the referenced cases.
For this reason you will not find that the court made any broad ruling providing that, under the First Amendment, a municipality has no control over political signs.
Rather, the opposite is true: The court has issued many narrow opinions in a clear attempt to frame a manner of reasonable 'control' over political signs. In fact, the court has repeatedly acknowledged that a community has the right to control signage, including political signs, if there is a compelling interest, such as the town’s appearance: such as in historical districts, safety: such as a distraction to drivers, or general public nuisance.
As , the town of Mansfield amended its sign regulations as the result of a complaint by a resident who happened to be member of the American Civil Liberties Union.
However, with all due respect to the townsfolk of Mansfield, if the ACLU has a major issue with the constitutionality of regulated political signs it would not have chosen Mansfield, Conn. as its test case.
It is not, and will not, be the commission’s place to regulate the content of signs, political or otherwise. What you put on your sign is up to you -- in poor taste or not.
I apologize if some people think that taking this position reflects arrogance on my part but I take the Constitution -- including its inherent separation of powers -- as well as my oath to the people of Woodbury, seriously.
Finally, I wish to thank Tom Arras for the publicity he has provided to my candidacy for selectman, without which many folks in town would not know to whom the "Overton" on the sign on his lawn referred.
Woodbury Zoning Commission Chairman