Story at a glance
• Council member Jennifer Riley voiced concerns at the June 22 council meeting that several residents had asked about regulations on political signs in the city.
• City manager Jim Ferree said the section of the city’s land use code regulating political signs is missing.
• Ferree said the ordinance may have been omitted when the city revisited the codes in 2007.
• City attorney Kenny Wohl advised the council not to purse an ordinance on the grounds that it might violate residents’ First Amendment rights.
• Political signs currently fall under the temporary sign section of the code and may be displayed for 60 days.
The Craig City Council may not take action on a missing ordinance in the city’s land use code regulating political signs around the city.
City attorney Kenny Wohl recommended by e-mail last week that the city council not draft an ordinance concerning the signs.
Wohl’s recommendation stems from his recent investigation into other Colorado municipalities and court cases brought against them concerning political signs, he said.
“In recent years, the courts have been striking down ordinances attempting to regulate political campaign signs with respect to their duration,” he said.
Wohl said campaign signs are considered to be political speech rather than commercial speech.
“Political speech is entitled to the greatest protection under the First Amendment,” he said. “Courts will traditionally let cities regulate commercial speech a lot more than they will political speech because of First Amendment concerns.”
Council member Jennifer Riley brought the issue to the council’s attention at its June 22 meeting.
She said during the meeting that she received several calls from Craig residents wondering why campaign signs for Moffat County candidates were being displayed earlier than normal.
Craig City Manager Jim Ferree said the ordinance managing political signs was missing from the city’s land use codes and might have been deleted when the city amended the codes in 2007.
Ferree said the only mention of political signs in the new land use codes is that they don’t require a permit to be displayed.
Currently, signs fall under the temporary sign category, which allows them to be displayed for 60 days, Ferree said.
Regulations on political signs’ size or duration of display are also not currently addressed in the land use codes.
The council originally agreed to investigate the matter further by drafting an ordinance to manage the signs and review it at the July 13 meeting.
Council member Terry Carwile said he was “disappointed” about the issue.
“I don’t think it’s an infringement on free speech … to reasonably say ‘OK, the political season has come and gone, those signs don’t need to be up anymore,’” he said.
Carwile said he also received some comments from residents about the duration the signs could be kept up in the city.
“I’d personally rather not see them up so early, that would be my preference,” he said. “I think it does tend to degrade the appearance of the community to have them up too far in advance of the election and have them linger afterwards.”
Wohl said if political signs are in compliance with the code in respect to size, location, and the condition of the sign, the city wouldn’t be able to regulate them without “running into First Amendment problems.”
He said city ordinances regulating temporary signs should be “content neutral.”
Riley said she was not sure if First Amendment concerns were the original cause of the ordinance being left out of the code when it was rewritten in 2007.
“Once Kenny advised us that other municipalities have had problems enforcing an ordinance like this, I said, ‘Well, it makes sense that it’s not in there and I’m not willing to waste any more time and resources on pursuing it,’” she said.