The provision involved in the Reed case addresses the constitutionality of the Town of Gilbert's regulation of temporary directional signs within the rights-of-way by the Good News Community Church. Essentially, Gilbert's sign code violated the 1st Amendment.
The Court found that the Church’s First Amendment right of free speech was abridged by the Town’s sign code. It determined that the sign code treated signs differently based on the subject matter of the sign, and was therefore an example of content-based discrimination. Specific to Reed, the Court found that the Church’s directional signs were treated less favorably when compared to other similar temporary signs, including political signs and ideological signs. As such, the Court found the Town’s sign code to be unconstitutional. ~City of Goodyear Staff Report
"Content neutral." Cities cannot judge signs by what's written on the signs. Signs are now judged by their characteristics, size, and the amount of time they can stand. This new "content neutral" rule is forcing Goodyear to amend several provisions of its own sign code.
For example, the City can no longer require land developers to place "Coming Soon" signs near new housing areas as that would be 'directing content' of the sign. As Mayor Georgia Lord pointed out, one would assume land developers would have "Coming Soon" signs. But the City is now restricted from directing a developer to do so.
JUST ANOTHER PROBLEM FOR SMALL BUSINESS
75 new businesses have located in our All-America City in just the last year.
Staying in business is the hard part.
"CAN'T FIND ANY OF THEM..."
Fast forward five years, at last night's work session, council reflected on its past actions to limit larger signs within the city and the crisis it's facing now.
While major retail anchors are able to afford monument signage, the smaller businesses cannot.
I don't know how half of them stay in business cause you can't find any of them in there. ~Joe Pizzillo, Goodyear Councilmember
Councilmember Osborne, whom - coincidentally - is relocating her business to the Estrella Falls Regional Mall area, noted a previous council meeting regarding the mall pylons. The conversation was in reference to how unreasonably expensive it is for smaller businesses to add their logo to mall pylons.
“I remember back when the mall was in front of us for their pylons. And they wanted three pylons out there on the freeway. And the discussion was, ‘You can have two.’ And then I said, ‘You know what? Bring up the third and put all those small businesses inside your mall that don’t get that anchor’s point of view out there, then you can have my vote for, you know, the pylon.’" ~Joanne Osborne, Goodyear Councilmember
POLITICIANS NOT IMMUNE
Revised sign codes also will affect temporary political signs, as well. The "quality" of the signs can be regulated. But political signs will have to be treated the same as other temporary signs.
CLEANING UP THE CLUTTER
Staff was asked on several occasions if it's issuing fines to those who violate the current sign code. While no one answered that question, the City did say signs are being picked up "every day."
Other cities, such as Mesa, have already made changes to their sign codes. Instead of "reinventing the wheel", Councilmember Pizzillo suggested staff take a look at what others are doing before trying to solve this on their own.
Mayor Lord also noted the City should pick up some of the tab to help businesses pay for costs associated with the new sign ordinance. Of course, the City pays for these things using taxpayer dollars.
GOODYEAR SIGN GALLERY
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jennifer Barber is a Goodyear resident resident of almost 20 years and a retired broadcast news journalist. Involved in various nonprofit and city organizations since 2008, Barber has a unique view of what's happening in the West Valley of Arizona.