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SIGN LAW'S FATE IS CLEAR, BUT PUBLIC WILL HAVE ITS SAY

THE ORCHARD PARK TOWN BOARD IS READY reluctantly -- to strike down the town's ordinance banning political signs.

But before it does so, the board at its Feb. 21 meeting will solicit public comment on revoking the law, which is essentially unconstitutional.

"I'm hoping there are some creative lawyers out there who might come to this public hearing with some suggestions for some sort of controlling law," Supervisor Toni Cudney said ruefully Wednesday night before the Town Board scheduled the public hearing.

The law has been on the books for a generation, but came under fire during the past election by Christopher Sasiadek, an Orchard Park high school student whose Ralph Nader sign was cited.

Sasiadek took it to the American Civil Liberties Union, which advised the town its law was illegal.

Town officials held out little hope of creating a law that would stand up in court, though they all said they would prefer not to see the town buried in political messages.

"All the ways the towns have tried to regulate the sign law in some form, how long they can be up for and sizes and whatnot, have been struck down," said Councilman Stan Jemiolo.

"You won't find one that's constitutional," said Councilman David Buyer.

Buyer said the town may go back to what was in effect for a decade before the current statute was created.

"There'll be a gentlemen's agreement between the party chairmen," he said, referring to the Democrats and Republicans, the two major parties.

Cudney said the town still wouldn't allow signs off private property.

"We do not have to allow them in the (public) right-of-ways," she said. "Those are not private property, so we can continue to remove them, something the building inspector does on a regular basis."

The board approved the appointment Wednesday of Daniel Lelito to the newly created position of part-time assistant zoning officer, with Cudney giving him marching orders to "get after those signs and vehicles that we have not been able to get to."

The board also scheduled for Feb. 21 a "public information meeting" on the proposed Eagle Heights nature trails project. No public hearing is required, but Councilwoman Nan Ackerman asked for time to be set aside to update the public on the project.

The town is considering creating trails from town parkland in the Eagle Heights area to a new town park created in conjunction with the Birdsong residential development.

Ackerman said the town has set aside $150,000, has received $60,000 in grants and is pursuing another grant for $78,000 toward the project.

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