County Revising Temporary Sign Rules Ahead of Election Season

If it seemed like political signs were in all the wrong places last election, it’s true—the county’s sign ordinance, like its codified noise ordinance, is unenforceable due to a court decision elsewhere.

Loudoun County regulates temporary signs differently depending on what they contain. In Loudoun’s case, temporary construction signs can be twice as tall as other temporary signs. But in 2012, the Virginia Attorney General’s office opined that any ordinance that regulates signs differently based on their content is invalid, and in 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a rule in Gilbert, AZ, because it regulated political signs differently from others.

That means that, like the codified noise ordinance, although Loudoun has a rule on the books, it can’t enforce that rule.

[Read about the Sheriff’s Office’s noise headaches here.]

But the Department of Planning and Zoning is on it. Staff are currently working up a new rule that will treat all temporary signage the same, regardless of what it says on the sign—just ahead of presidential campaign season.

“I think it’s very important that we move this forward now, because I’m assuming, considering it’s a presidential election year, folks might want to have signs out this fall,” said Supervisor Suzanne M. Volpe (R-Algonkian). “And I’m excited because staff believes that they can move through this quick enough so that we would have a fair ordinance.”

4 thoughts on “County Revising Temporary Sign Rules Ahead of Election Season

  • 2016-04-18 at 1:31 pm

    The BOS wants to be in compliance with the Constitution on free speech. Too bad our Loudoun County School Board thumbs its nose at free speech in the Constitution. LCSB won’t get away with it for long but Loudoun taxpayers will be the ones having to pay for a futile defense of LCSB in federal court.

  • 2016-04-19 at 11:05 am

    virginia sgp, it is quite concerning that the LCSB inhibits free speech. Could you please publish the court dates so that concerned citizens can attend and hear the testimony for themselves? Thanks.

  • 2016-04-19 at 1:40 pm

    In my comment earlier, I forgot to use the term “allegedly”.

  • 2016-04-19 at 8:44 pm

    Elle, will do. LCA Plowman gets to go first. And all the proceedings are down at the federal courthouse in Alexandria (it’s very nice for those who haven’t been). Plowman, or rather his attorney, has 60 days to respond to the complaint so that should be coming pretty soon. Then, a scheduling conference will be set but they don’t call the Eastern District of Virginia the “rocket docket” for nothing. Expect the date to be sometime in the summer.

    As for LCSB, attorneys take a little more time than the briefs I drafted myself last year. I guess they have a professional reputation which demands more eloquent briefings. Hopefully filed pretty soon (next 2 weeks) and then LCSB/LCPS will likely have 30 days or so to respond. Expected trial date would be in the fall. However, since many will be named in their personal capacity (they have to pay out of their own pockets for retaliation against citizens), it could drag out. My understanding is that appeals as to limited immunity would be decided first as that is an affirmative defense. In other words, if you are just doing your level best in a public job, you can’t be sued personally. Unless the other party shows the official acted intentionally to harass or retaliate, the official is granted “limited immunity” for their personal liability. Needless to say, we are very confident that we can prove many LCPS officials used their positions (color of law) to retaliate for public criticism. Such appeals could take months or even years depending how far they appeal. Since the censorship (banning on official Facebook page) is but one of the counts along with the retaliation charges, the LCSB censorship counts may take awhile to resolve.

    So, bottom line is this. One would hope once Plowman loses in federal court (unconstitutionally censored based on viewpoint), LCSB members would cease and desist their censorship. But I have a feeling they will try to claim their official Facebook pages are not really “official” and will continue censoring until a court imposes its will on them. It might be a long time.

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