Otsego city okays change to sign regulations

By: 
Daniel Pepper, Staff Writer

Otsego city commissioners voted to change their temporary sign ordinance on the advice of their lawyers.

Commissioners voted unanimously Monday, May 6, to adopt an amendment to that part of the city’s zone ordinance.

City manager Aaron Mitchell said, “The biggest change is that this is all year long.

“The idea is that we can’t have the days around the election. That’s what the rulings from judges have been, that it’s no longer okay.

“This is a sign ordinance in 2019.”

Previously, the city limited multiple political signs to around national and local elections but a resident, Michael Ransbottom, challenged the city’s ticketing of him for displaying signs that said “Impeach Trump 2018” and “Nazis Not Welcome” on First Amendment grounds.

The ticket in Allegan County District Court was stayed while Ransbottom filed suit in federal court against the city’s ordinance.

Mitchell said the city couldn’t put a time frame on its ordinance because that appeared to treat political speech differently than other speech, attorneys advised.

“If you treat political speech differently, that gets you into trouble,” he said.

The city’s ordinance can require people to maintain their signs in good repair, Mitchell said.

The ordinance as approved will allow up to five temporary yard signs on residential property and limits their size to a maximum surface area of 15 square feet with no single sign being bigger than 6 square feet.

Mitchell said the police department had advised him that five signs in a residential area wouldn’t constitute a traffic hazard.

Mayor Cyndi Trobeck asked why the ordinance allowed so many signs?

Mitchell replied, “Because of election time. You have people who say ‘I have four candidates I like or support’ so we want to be sure we’re allowing that.”

The ordinance takes effect May 24.

Contact Dan Pepper at dpepper@allegannews.com or at (269) 673-5534.

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