Oct 11, 2013 Joe Genco Uncategorized
Under law, the village of Skaneateles no longer has any time or size restrictions on free-standing political signs.
After discussing the matter and holding a public hearing, the village voted to pass local law no. 2 of 2013, repealing restrictions on political signs, at its Oct. 10 meeting.
The law removes three sentences from the village code that placed restrictions on free-standing political signs, typically placed in people’s yards.
The former section read: “Political posters shall not exceed four square feet. Placement shall not exceed 30 days. The names and addresses of the sponsor and the person responsible for removal shall be identified on the posters.”
Village attorney Michael Byrne advised the board that any law restricting political signs could be found unconstitutional if the law were challenged.
“What the Supreme Court of the United States has said is political signs are protected free speech; one of the highest forms of protected free speech that we have. They don’t tolerate many limitations on such signs. Particularly this: you cannot impose any limitation on a political sign that you don’t impose on others,” he said.
Trustee Jim Lanning said that the main motivation for repealing the law is to avoid a potential challenge. “I think the purpose of us doing this is so that we don’t waste taxpayer dollars fighting a lawsuit that we ultimately can’t win,” he said.
Trustees also expressed interest in amending the section of the village code dealing with signs to limit how closely they may be placed to the road. Byrne said that such a rule would have to apply to all temporary signs in the village, not just political signs, or else it could be seen as a violation of free speech.
Mayor Marty Hubbard suggested adding a future provision prohibiting any signs to be placed between the sidewalk and road, or a set distance from the edge of the paved surface.
Trustee Sue Jones said she would take charge of an effort to further examine the village code and make suggestions for another law. Having signs too close to the road could be a safety issue, she said.
Skaneateles is the second Central New York municipality to repeal such a restriction to avoid potential challenges. The town of Manlius repealed its political sign law on Sept. 11 after a suit was filed against them by David Rubin, former dean of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.
The town of Skaneateles has no time restriction on signs, but it does state that the signs must be removed no more than five days after the election (or event) is over. Trustees also expressed interest in adding this provision to the village code, though Byrne said he was unsure if it would be constitutional or not.
–Hubbard read a statement responding to a letter from town supervisor Terri Roney requesting that the town and village hold a joint meeting to discuss the annexation of town property for a proposed senior living facility.
Hubbard said that the annexation is a statutory process which must begin with the landowners filing a petition. Developers Bob Casper and Mike McCracken have met with town officials regarding the project, though they have yet to officially apply for annexation.
In the statement Hubbard writes: “It would be unwise for the boards to meet in a joint public meeting prior to the receipt of a petition and doing so could compromise the ability of board members to vote on the proposal after it has been formally requested.”
The proposal would call for annexing five properties to the village, including the land on East Genesee Street owned by former car dealer Pat Bombard.
–Director of Municipal Operations Bob Lotkowictz said that village workers replaced a utility pole on West Genesee Street after it was struck by a car on the morning of Oct. 10. The motorist hit the pole after swerving to avoid a squirrel in the road, Lotkowictz said.
–Hubbard recognized seven representatives of the Skaneateles Fire Department who attended a ceremony on Oct. 8 at the fallen firefighters memorial in Albany. Nine firefighters who were killed in the line of duty were honored at the ceremony.
The honorees included George Dove, of Skaneateles, who was killed fighting a fire in 1965. Dove had been forgotten until this year when village historian Jorge Battle found documentation of his death while preparing to move out of the old village offices, Adam D’Amico, who attended the ceremony, said.
–Hubbard also commended the employees and designers of the village wastewater treatment facility for doing an exceptional job. The facility recently got a renewal of its state permit to operate, without conditions, through January 2019.
“This is unheard of stuff,” Hubbard said.
–The board voted to reschedule two of its upcoming meetings due to conflicts with holidays. The meeting scheduled for Nov. 28 (Thanksgiving) was moved to Tuesday, Nov. 26. The meeting scheduled for Dec. 26 was moved to Monday, Dec. 30.
Joe Genco is the editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at email@example.com.