Nancy Shea is arguing a township ordinance limiting the number of yard signs allowed on a property is unconstitutional.
Millcreek Township is once again facing a lawsuit over its sign regulations.
A township resident on Thursday filed a federal suit in U.S. District Court in Erie, questioning the constitutionality of a section of the township zoning ordinance that caps the number of “temporary signs” allowed on a property at two.
The resident, Nancy Shea, had placed four political signs on a duplex property she owns in the 4500 block of West Lake Road, according to the complaint, when she received notice from the township that she was in violation of the ordinance.
The complaint states the notice arrived Oct. 13 and directed Shea to remove two of the signs within five days or face fines.
The ordinance “attempts to unconstitutionally place an artificial barrier on how many political races Millcreek residents may (publicly) comment on in (their) front lawns and residential properties,” Shea’s lawyer, John Mizner, wrote in the complaint.
Mizner also filed a request for a preliminary injunction that would prevent the township from enforcing the ordinance against Shea to allow her to express support for all of her preferred candidates in advance of the November general election. A hearing on the request will be scheduled next week, according to court records.
Township Solicitor Mark Shaw could not be reached for comment. The township will have an opportunity to respond to the lawsuit in court.
Mizner was involved in a similar lawsuit filed against Millcreek Township earlier this year, following another dispute about the township’s sign ordinance.
The township’s sign regulations faced scrutiny in the summer of 2016, when the township fined Republican state Senate nominee Dan Laughlin for posting political signs more than 30 days before an election. Laughlin went on to be elected state senator for the 49th District.
The township withdrew its claim after Laughlin’s campaign questioned the constitutionality of the local regulations. The township supervisors went on to amend the ordinance in May to eliminate regulations that limited when and for how long political signs could be posted, and make all sign regulations “content neutral.”
But before the amendment was made, a township resident represented by Mizner filed a lawsuit in April claiming the regulations violated his First Amendment rights. The case was settled when the township agreed to pay $15,000 to the resident, Louis Montefiori, in June. The amendment to the ordinance had addressed Montefiori’s concerns, according to the settlement agreement.
Shea is asking a judge to find the township’s sign limits violate her First Amendment rights. She is also requesting unspecified damages in her lawsuit, but Mizner said she is most interested in having the township’s sign regulation lifted.
“If the township were to ... change it and remove the two-sign limitation, Mrs. Shea’s only interest would be to be reimbursed for her attorney’s fees,” Mizner said Friday.
Original Article By: Madeleine O’Neill can be reached at 870-1728 or by email. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/ETNoneill.