Germantown political sign debate continues, but ordinance stays the same

Sept. 18, 2012

After two hours of debate, the Germantown Village Board Monday voted to not change the campaign sign ordinance they updated back in May.

The General Government Committee in a 3-to-1 vote approved changes to the ordinance that if approved by the village board would ban all campaign signs from the public right of way. After an hourlong public comment period where residents had differing opinions on whether or not campaign signs should be allowed in public right-of-ways, the board unanimously voted against changing the village code.

The ordinance was clarified in spring to state that campaign signs can be placed on village right-of-ways abutting residential properties only if the property owner has given his or her approval for the sign to be placed there.

Before the April 3 election, candidates thought they could place campaign signs on village right-of-ways as long as they were 4-feet from the curb line. The Germantown Police Department and the village were inundated with calls from residents throughout the month of March asking for illegally placed campaign signs to be removed from the village right-of-ways abutting their property.

Village Attorney Brian Sajdak said prohibiting campaign signs in public space altogether would clear up any confusion regarding the ordinance. He said by allowing signs in the right-of-ways, it also makes a space "quasi-public," meaning the right of way is still public space, but it's not fully public because property owners have to grant permission to place signs there.

"That's why I thought we should retake a look at this because that was a concern that I did have," he said.

A handful of Germantown residents argued that prohibiting placement of signs is a violation of free speech. Others argued that the board was favoring one political affiliation over another.

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