Residents will be allowed to post an unlimited number of temporary signs, including political signs.
Millcreek Township has agreed to pay a resident $23,396 to settle a federal lawsuit challenging township political sign regulations.
It’s the township’s second settlement agreement in seven months with a resident fighting those rules.
The township agreed to pay $15,000 to another resident in June.
Most recently, Nancy Shea challenged a zoning ordinance limit on the number of “temporary” signs permitted on a property. The ordinance allows only two temporary signs, including political signs.
Shea last fall posted four political signs on her property in the 4500 block of West Lake Road. She was told by the township that she had violated township zoning rules and could be fined if she did not remove at least two signs.
Shea instead challenged the ordinance.
The cap on temporary signs “attempts to unconstitutionally place an artificial barrier on how many political races Millcreek residents may (publicly) comment on in front lawns and residential properties,” Shea’s lawyer, John Mizner, wrote in an October complaint in U.S. District Court in Erie.
Supervisors temporarily stopped enforcement of the rule after the lawsuit was filed.
“I commend the township for voluntarily agreeing not to enforce it right before last year’s general election,” Mizner said Thursday. “It could have taken the position that we needed to go to court to stop it.”
Mizner had filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to stop enforcement of the sign cap. A judge had not yet ruled on the motion or scheduled a hearing when supervisors suspended enforcement.
By terms of Wednesday’s settlement agreement, there will be no limit on how many temporary signs can be posted, Mizner said.
The payment to Shea will cover legal fees only, Mizner said.
“She never sought anything for herself other than removal of the two-sign limitation,” Mizner said. “It was exclusively a matter of principle.”
The township zoning ordinance will be amended to eliminate the cap on temporary signs, but that will take time, Millcreek Township Board of Supervisors Chairman John Morgan said Thursday.
The proposed amendment is expected to be before township and county planners for consideration in February. Planners then would recommend that supervisors approve the amendment.
“It’s the intention of this board to strike limitations on the number of temporary signs,” Morgan said. “But there’s procedure that we have to follow to make zoning changes, per state law.”
The township in June agreed to pay Louis J. Montefiori $15,000 to settle a federal lawsuit challenging Millcreek’s limitation on how early political signs could be posted. The zoning ordinance prohibited postings more than 30 days before an election.
Montefiori’s filed a lawsuit in April claiming the rules violated his First Amendment rights, although he had not been cited for a violation.
Millcreek’s sign regulations first came into the spotlight in summer 2016 when the township fined then-candidate Dan Laughlin $12,000, claiming, among other things, that he posted political signs more than 30 days before the election.
The township withdrew its claim in September 2016 after Laughlin’s campaign questioned the constitutionality of the 30-day posting limit. Supervisors said they would review the regulations to address possible constitutional issues.
Laughlin was elected to the state Senate in November 2016.
Original Article By: Valerie Myers can be reached at 878-1913 or by email. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/ETNmyers.