If you are planning to list your home for sale, want to put up signs to support political candidates or are advertising for a garage sale, new rules the city of Greenwood is considering could limit what signs you can post in your own yard and how big they can be.
A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision required cities across the country to change the way they regulate signs. Greenwood used the opportunity to simplify its rules, but doing so means residents will be able to place fewer and smaller signs in their yards. The city council set up exceptions for businesses to make sure signs they were allowed to place prior to the Supreme Court ruling will still be allowed in the city.
The need for the overhaul was sparked by a Supreme Court decision that drastically changed the ways cities are allowed to regulate signs, city attorney Krista Taggart said.
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Cities across the county used to regulate signs by the content, with separate rules for political signs, garage sale signs and real estate.
The Supreme Court ruling said the cities could only regulate signs based on their content in extremely rare circumstances, resulting in the need to re-write the rules, she said.
The result is that if you have to read a sign to determine if it is legal, than you are likely violating the Constitution, Greenwood Planning Director Bill Peeples said.
Former rules allowed for six square feet for garage sale and real estate signs but didn’t place any size restrictions on signs for candidates running for office.
Residents also had the option to display a 32-square-foot sign for three 30-day periods each year.
Now, instead of setting specific rules for when and how long different categories of signs can be placed, Greenwood will regulate signs by size and type, with residents only being allowed to place one four-square-foot sign on their property at any time, with the exception the two months preceding an election and six days after, when residential sign use becomes unlimited under a state law that took effect this summer.
Allowing one sign per residential property outside of election season makes sense, council president Mike Campbell said.
While he isn’t aware of any properties that are oversaturated with signs, that is something the city should aim to avoid, he said.
The city council voted 7-1 in favor of the new sign rules. Council member Chuck Landon voted against the changes, saying that he had wanted to verify first that the local business community was OK with the new rules.
The Greenwood Chamber of Commerce had provided input in drafting the new rules, but the organization representing local businesses hadn’t taken an official vote to state its preference on the new sign code, Campbell said.
Input from the chamber resulted in several changes, most notably a unique way of still allowing “for sale” signs to be placed, Peeples said.
Because the city can’t restrict signs based on the message written on them because of free speech rules, even taking the step of having specific regulations for “for sale” signs could be viewed as unconstitutional, he said.
To allow “for sale” signs, the city opted to let the owner of any property that is for sale place a second sign. But, because the city can’t regulate signs based on content, that sign could be a “for sale” sign or it could be anything else, he said.