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ANTIQUATED POLITICAL SIGN LAW HEADED FOR UPDATING

A dated Village of Hamburg sign ordinance banning political signs on front lawns is headed for a rewrite soon, after 18 property owners put up campaign signs in front of their homes in the last week.

Village Attorney Robert Walsh Monday night acknowledged that the village's 20-year-old sign ordinance will be reviewed and probably modified to address constitutional concerns regarding its limitations.

"The bottom line is the sign ordinance is being reviewed," Walsh said in response to questions from the public at the Village Board meeting. He said it probably will be altered to bring it more in line with court rulings on such constitutional issues.

As of Monday night, 10 of 16 property owners, who were told last Tuesday they would receive summonses to Village Court unless they removed their signs by 8 a.m. the next day, still had campaign signs in, said Village Administrator David Fountaine. Political party representatives removed some of the signs over the weekend.

Residents who refuse to remove the signs could face a maximum $250 daily fine for each day they continue to keep the sign up and violate the village's Zoning Code regulations.

Property owners receiving summonses from the building inspector by certified mail are due in court Friday night.

Karl Kofod, head of the town Republican Committee, questioned village officials about the ordinance banning political signs and the accompanying size restrictions for such signs. As of last week, most of the signs on village lawns were for town Republican candidates.

Village officials say this is the first time the ordinance involving political signs has been challenged. "People have adhered to it, whether they believe in it or not," said Mayor John S. Thomas.

Walsh noted that it will be up to the courts to address whether the sign ordinance improperly regulates freedom of speech and whether the signs are too large. "The ordinance needs to be readdressed. In terms of the size of the signs, I believe it's constitutional," he said.

Critics complained last week that the ordinance is unconstitutional, and Hamburg attorney John Wiencek, who unsuccessfully ran for Town Board, threatened to seek an injunction against enforcing the ordinance while he seeks to prove the ordinance violates the First Amendment.

The ordinance permits political signs in front of officially designated campaign headquarters and requires that signs be removed within three days after the election.

Alexandra Morlock of Sunset Drive, wife of a village police officer, criticized the ordinance as too harsh. She asked why some people with signs were never cited, including her neighbor across the street, yet she was contacted by the village. Village officials said the neighbor's home had been designated as a campaign headquarters.

"You won't be able to have any signs in the village," even "For Sale" signs, if the village pursues this, Mrs. Morlock told the board.

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