Tuesday, May 31, 2016

DELIGHTED AND GRATIFIED II: Proposed St. Augustine Beach Sign Ordinance Replaces First Amendment Violating Ordinance


"It is revolting to have no better reason for a rule of law than that so it was laid down in the time of Henry IV. It is still more revolting if the grounds upon which it was laid down have vanished long since, and the rule simply persists from blind imitation of the past." -- Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

I am delighted and gratified that the Commissioners in St. Augustine Beach repealed its unconstitutional sign ordinance, one of the first things they did now that they have a lawyer who does not represent developers, James Patrick Wilson. For ten years, I've pointed out that the SAB sign ordinance was a violation of the First Amendment, discriminating against political yard signs, requiring a too-short time limit, treating political signs differently than commercial signs. SAB finally heeded my suggestion. Thank you.

On Wednesday, June 1, 2016, Commissioners will consider a new ordinance:

Sign regulations, event permit on tap at Beach meeting
Posted: May 29, 2016 - 9:13pm | Updated: May 30, 2016 - 2:49am

Revisions to St. Augustine Beach’s sign code are moving forward following a decision to stop enforcing parts of the code after a U.S. Supreme Court decision.

“That is one of the most important things we’ll have to work on … our previous sign ordinance did not comply,” St. Augustine Beach Mayor Rich O’Brien said.

Changes to the city’s sign code are scheduled to be heard at the City Commission meeting, which begins at 6 p.m. Wednesday at St. Augustine Beach City Hall. The agenda and other materials are posted at staugbch.com. Other items include financial updates, an event permit and probably parking on 16th Street.

At a special meeting on April 26, the City Commission suspended enforcement of its “regulations governing temporary, non-commercial speech as those regulations relate to the city’s sign code,” according to the city.

The U.S. Supreme Court opinion in Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Arizona, in 2015 affected sign regulations that separately classify “non-commercial signs” based upon their content.

Such regulations came under greater scrutiny following the case, according to a memo from the city attorney.

St. Augustine Beach’s sign code had included restrictions for political signs — such as a provision prohibiting people from putting out political signs more than 20 days before an election. But it’s been revised by Susan Erdelyi, an outside attorney with Marks Gray firm.

The revisions were recently supported by the city’s Planning and Zoning Board, and no longer include distinctions for political signs.

“We’re basically taking out the categories of signs. ... political signs are no longer categorized,” Erdelyi said, adding that size and location are part of the focus instead of speech.

Erdelyi added that “It’s a new way of writing sign codes, and the city of St. Augustine Beach is one of the first cities in the state to bring their sign code into compliance with this supreme court case.”

The issue is also related to a lawsuit, which the Edmonds Family Partnership filed against the city in March in U.S. District Court. The complaint claims that sections of the city’s sign regulations are unconstitutional.

The Florida Municipal Insurance Trust of the Florida League of Cities, the liability insurer for the city, assigned Erdelyi to defend the city in the suit, according to the city.

“That suit is on hold until mid-July, when it is expected that the city will have adopted new sign regulations,” according to the city.

Parking is also expected to be addressed on Wednesday.

O’Brien said he also plans to add something to the agenda for discussion about parking on 16th Street. People have been parking on both sides of the road, which O’Brien said he believes is a safety problem for emergency vehicle access. He said he wants to speed up an effort to designate parking on the north side of the road, and prohibit parking on the south side.

In other business:

■ The city is planning to discuss its financial outlook and a resolution that would update the city’s financial policies. Also on the table are discussions about city finances, including debt.

■ The city’s audit report for the current fiscal year is ready to be considered.

■ Commissioners are expected to consider granting a special event permit for a 5K held at the pier [the start and finish point] from 6 a.m. to noon Sept. 10. The run, called the Feel the Love 5K, is sponsored by the nonprofit St. Augustine United.

“My best friend and I formed [the] nonprofit to fundraise for a local single mother who needs a heart transplant,” said Cristan Carmon, president of St. Augustine United.

This will be their first event if approved, she said.

The group is asking to start the race at 8 a.m. and to open the roads by 10 a.m., and the race would be capped at 400 participants.

She said the route would close one lane on part of A1A Beach Boulevard, and other streets would be affected.

The parking plan listed on the permit application indicates people will have to find their own parking.

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