City council approves first reading of temporary sign ordinance

FLUSHING — At its April 12 meeting, Flushing City Council unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance that will regulate the placement and removal of temporary signs in the city.

According to the proposed ordinance, which was drafted by the Flushing City Planning Commission, temporary signs that “communicate an event with a purpose or theme and a defined beginning and end” must not be placed on any property more than 30 calendar days preceding “any event of that type to which the sign or signs pertain.” Temporary signs will also have to be taken down within seven days following the end date of the event that’s being advertised.

Under the ordinance, temporary signs would not be allowed to be placed in a city right of way and would not be allowed to exceed 12 square feet in area or four feet above the existing grade.

In a recent analysis of city ordinances, Flushing City Manager Clarence Goodlein found that the city’s current temporary sign ordinance is not in compliance with recent case law regarding temporary signs; specifically, the 2015 Supreme Court case Reed v. Town of Gilbert, which established guidelines for the regulation of temporary signage.

As a result, the Planning Commission worked four months to draft a compliant ordinance with the help of Flushing City Attorney Matt McKone and city administration.

Mayor Pro Tem Edward Sullivan, who serves as the city council representative on the Planning Commission, said that the proposed sign ordinance regulates all temporary signs that advertise an event with a beginning and an end—such as a garage sale or bake sale—the same way political signs are regulated.

“Because of the Supreme Court case involving a city in Arizona, temporary signs and political signs couldn’t be considered two different items,” he said. “You couldn’t regulate a sign for an election any different than you did for a church bake sale. The draft ordinance… is confining the political sign ordinance and the temporary sign ordinance together so that we’ll be in compliance with the Supreme Court ruling.”

Goodlein said that the temporary sign ordinance does not apply to signs on peoples’ property that display a philosophical message— such as “Black Lives Matter” or “Back the Badge”—because they are expressing an idea and not advertising an event.

The proposed ordinance also wouldn’t limit the quantity or content of signs that residents can display on their property.

With passage of the first reading, Flushing City Council will hold a public hearing and a second reading of the ordinance at its next meeting in May.