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After two local couples filed a federal lawsuit in May challenging the constitutionality of the Town of Morrison’s sign ordinance, the Town Board voted unanimously to adopt a more permissive approach to signs on private property.
The old ordinance placed a near-blanket prohibition on signs in residential and agricultural districts, preventing residents from placing signs – of any size – with political, religious, or personal messages on their own lawns. Town officials used that ordinance to stifle opposition to potential industrial wind turbine developments in the town, issuing takedown notices and citations to many residents, including the plaintiffs.
The new ordinance, which is already in effect, expressly allows “noncommercial message signs” to be erected without obtaining a permit. The ordinance allows property owners to place up to two noncommercial signs on each parcel, up to the maximum size that would normally be allowed in a particular zoning district.
“We’re glad to see Morrison act so quickly to cease enforcing and fix their plainly unconstitutional sign ordinance,” said Thomas Kamenick, associate counsel for WILL. “It shows the Town knows it violated our clients’ constitutional rights and can’t defend its actions.”
“The Town isn’t going out of its way to let people know they changed the ordinance,” said James Vanden Boogart, one of the plaintiffs. “Town residents need to know that they can put their signs back up now and will no longer be fined for exercising their free speech rights.”