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Legal Issues in Sign Codes
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Legal Issues in Sign Codes

Legal Issues in Sign Codes

60 min
Credit: AICP CM

This course is approved for 1 AICP CM credit, including Law credit. 

This course provides basic knowledge of the legal issues involved in sign codes, including content neutrality, permitting standards, nonconforming signs, and trademarked logos. The course will focus on how to draft and enforce constitutionally-compliant sign codes in the aftermath of U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision in Reed v Town of Gilbert

In This Course

  1. James Carpentier introduces the course.
  2. There hadn’t been a sign code-specific case before the U.S. Supreme Court for 20 years, until the town of Gilbert drafted and enforced an ordinance that treated certain speakers differently. The chapter will spell out exactly what went wrong in Gilbert and provide guidance on how to avoid such a sign code clash.
  3. This chapter describes how the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Reed v Town of Gilbert case, including Justice Thomas's majority opinion and the concurring opinions.
  4. The biggest takeaway from Reed v Town of Gilbert is the overriding importance of content neutrality in sign codes.
  5. This chapter lists five "must-do" regulatory principles for communities in the aftermath of the Reed decision.
  6. In addition to Reed v Town of Gilbert, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on various sign code issues in several other cases, all of which need to be taken into account by local officials. In this chapter, we will review the main takeaways from these U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
  7. The legal issues in sign codes aren't just about the message of the sign. The permitting process also triggers constitutional issues involving the First and Fourteenth Amendments. This chapter details how to avoid legal pitfalls that often arise when it comes to permitting standards, including vagueness, overbreadth, and unbridled discretion.
  8. This chapter provides an overview of the legal issues involved with non-conforming signs and when a community exercises its power of eminent domain.
  9. Communities should be careful when regulating the appearance of signs, because legal issues can arise from surprising sources. In this chapter, we will review the federal laws and legal cases that affect aesthetic regulation of signs.
  10. In addition to the constitutional protection offered to sign users, additional federal and state laws can apply to sign regulation.

Published 2016