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Towns warned that limits on political signs could violate free speech

By The Associated Press

WESTPORT, Conn. — The Connecticut Civil Liberties Union has fired off letters to towns and cities to warn that limits on political lawns signs could violate free speech.

The issue has cropped up because of a complaint about Westport’s 60-day limit on the posting of campaign signs on residential property.

The CCLU has threatened legal action against Westport if the town fails to amend its zoning regulations.

The regulation states that temporary signs may be posted on residential property for “public, political and charitable purposes” no more than 60 days before an event and must be removed within seven days after the event.

Westport Zoning Director Katherine Barnard acknowledged that the time limitations need to be removed and, until they are, would not be enforced.

“The Town of Westport recognizes the importance of allowing our citizens to express freely their political preferences ... I have discussed this issue with the Town Attorney, who agrees that the zoning regulations need to be amended to remove the time limitations,” Barnard wrote to the CCLU.

Westport First Selectwoman Diane Farrell, a Democrat, said she was not aware of the time restraints on campaign signs. Farrell is running for Congress, and her campaign’s lawn signs can be spotted throughout Westport now, well over 60 days before the election.

“It’s essentially a moot regulation,” said Lewis Brey, former vice chairman of Westport’s Republican Town Committee, because the town has not enforced it.

But CCLU Executive Director Teresa Younger said the regulation needs to come off of Westport’s books and other municipalities deserve a warning to look for similar regulations.

“If there’s an ordinance passed in one community, others look at that same ordinance. This is not just a one-town problem. We need to educate all 169 towns” in the state, Younger said.


ACLU campaigns for Michigan towns to allow political yard signs

'We have a long record of making ordinance decisions based on aesthetics,' says Ferndale city manager. 07.03.04

Civil libertarians criticize N.Y. town's yard-sign law
NYCLU tells Essex town supervisor that statute violates free speech, forecloses 'a venerable means of communication that is both unique and important.' 08.27.04

Federal judge halts Michigan city's time limit on yard signs
Meanwhile, conflicts are springing up across the country over statutes that restrict campaign signs. 09.20.04

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