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City of Chandler Halts Enforcement of Unconstitutional Sign Code

October 20, 2016

Phoenix–An Arizona judge has ordered the City of Chandler to stop enforcing portions of the city’s sign code that violate the freedom-of-speech provisions of the state and federal constitutions. The decision came as a result of a lawsuit brought by the Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute on behalf of local business owners in Chandler affected by the sign restrictions.

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a similar sign ordinance in the neighboring town of Gilbert a year ago, finding that local government rules that treat signs differently based on what they say violates the First Amendment.

“Cities have had more than a year since the Supreme Court decision to fix their sign codes,” said Adi Dynar, staff attorney at the Goldwater Institute who represents the local businesses. “Despite repeated warnings, Chandler, Scottsdale, and other Arizona cities have refused to come into compliance with the law. Today’s court order is a step in the right direction for Chandler,” said Dynar. The Institute has filed another lawsuit challenging Scottsdale’s sign rules.

Chandler’s sign ordinance establishes a complicated set of rules that divide signs into 11 categories based on what they say, and imposes different restrictions on each category.  For instance, political signs, grand opening signs, and residential real estate signs can be put up without a permit, but a permit is required for non-residential real estate signs, “subdivision direction signs,” and “development signs.”

This case was brought on behalf of business owners who were cited for advertising their business with signs. In one instance, Chandler code enforcement officers posted violation notices on January 2, 2016, the Saturday after New Year’s Day, on the “for lease” signs of three businesses. In another instance, a small upholstery business wanted to post signs advertising discounted prices for military veterans, but could not because it would have violated the city sign code.

“We are happy that Chandler is taking active steps to make its sign code truly content-neutral,” said Dynar. “It’s time Chandler and other cities catch up with the state and federal constitutions by respecting every person’s property rights and the right to speak freely.”

In April, the Institute released a policy paper urging cities to revise their sign codes in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Reed v. Town of Gilbert. Read our report here.

Read more about this case, Covers Plus, et al. v. City of Chandler here.

Read more about the case against Scottsdale’s sign code, Shearer v. City of Scottsdale, here.



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