The township supervisors voted Tuesday to temporarily halt enforcement of a two-yard-sign limit on township properties.
Millcreek Township has temporarily suspended the enforcement of its two-yard-sign limit pending a court proceeding in a lawsuit by a township woman who had challenged the rule, a township supervisor said Wednesday.
The limit had become the subject of a lawsuit on Thursday in which the woman, Nancy Shea, claimed the zoning ordinance’s limit on the number of “temporary signs” she could place on her property was unconstitutional.
Township Supervisor Brian McGrath said the supervisors voted Tuesday night to temporarily suspend enforcement of the limit until a judge could rule on a motion by the Shea’s lawyer, John Mizner, for a preliminary injunction to block enforcement of the rule through a court order.
Mizner requested the preliminary injunction in U.S. District Court in Erie, but a judge has not yet ruled on the motion or scheduled a hearing, though a hearing is expected to be scheduled shortly.
McGrath said the unanimous decision had been made at the recommendation of township Solicitor Mark Shaw because the a judge will likely rule on the injunction in within a short period of time.
The supervisors have not decided to rescind the sign limit, McGrath said. He said the supervisors are awaiting a recommendation from Shaw about how to proceed with Shea’s lawsuit.
Mizner said Wednesday that his client applauded the move.
Shea had placed four political signs on a duplex property she owns in the 4500 block of West Lake Road, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Erie, 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, ” Mizner wrote in the complaint.
Mizner had requested the preliminary injunction to prevent the township from enforcing the ordinance to allow Shea to express support for all of her preferred candidates in advance of the November general election.
It’s not the first time the township has had legal troubles over its sign regulations.
The 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.
Original Article By: Madeleine O’Neill can be reached at 870-1728 or by email. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/ETNoneill.