Montgomery County changing sign ordinance following Supreme Court decision

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MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ7) We see advertising signs every day but especially on the windows of businesses we visit.

Now businesses in our area will have regulations on how they can post their signs.

It's thanks to a recent U.S. Supreme Court Decision in Reed vs. Town of Gilbert, AZ., which said there can be no content based regulations on signs.

It's happening all over the country and Montgomery County said it's one of the first to initiate the change.

The issue is over types of signs and how they qualify in current laws; and while many are commending the work done to redo ordinances, businesses around the area have different reasons to object.

County Board of Supervisors Chair Christopher Tuck explained, "The majority of the sign ordinances, especially in the Fourth Circuit, are all commercial, residential, political, religious, all those signs categories were deemed to be content based and so therefore they were UN-Constitutional."

Some of the points of the ordinance include limiting how long political signs can be up and how much space advertising signs can take up.

Merissa Sachs owns two businesses in the area and disagrees with the provision saying only half of business windows can be covered by signs.

She said, "If we need our windows, to actually advertise our product, I feel that we should be able to do that without regulation,"

County employees say there are a couple reasons for this, including being fair to businesses without windows.

"One was the safety issue, and individuals being able to drive by and see in a store, especially stores that are open 24 hours a day, such as convenience stores and the like," Tuck said.

Another issue is changing sings that want to advertise several messages by flipping through them.

The new law would say each sign must be up for five seconds.

Johnathon Taylor of Christiansburg said in a Public Hearing, "If it is up for five seconds on a 35 mph road, it takes 342 yards for you to be able to see all four different signs change."

But the Chamber of Commerce spoke in Monday's Public Hearing in favor of the new laws.

John Tutle is the Chamber's Business Climate Committee Chair.

He said, "This ordinance cannot please everyone, as no new regulation ever does. I think it is well thought out and it can actually make it fairer to all, but also get some uniformity to make our county look more appealing."

It's important to note, any signs up right now are grandfathered in and won't need to come down.

Also, the county won't be out checking signs, this is on a report basis only.

A decision will be made on the new ordinance during the first July meeting. But before then anyone wishing to read the current draft can find it attached to this article.

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