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Village of Skaneateles passes law repealing political sign restrictions

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.

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