SYRACUSE -- City officials want to take a closer look at a sign ordinance that limits putting political signs on park strips throughout the city.
Following an extensive discussion of the existing sign restriction, Mayor Jamie Nagle directed staff to come up with a proposed revision of city code, which could potentially allow the placement of small signs in park strips.
There was some discussion about allowing 18-inch by 24-inch signs on public property while including language that prohibits them in front of some city buildings.
Lights and signs are currently prohibited on public property. Park strips are city property.
Councilman Matt Kimmel said he sees a lot of signs in park strips throughout the city, and said he has a hard time with the restriction. He said the restriction demonstrated a lack of faith in the public.
Councilman Matt Ocana is currently involved in a primary race for one of three seats up for vote this fall. He said he had to remove some of his political signs when he found out about the park strip restriction.
Ocana expressed mixed feelings about the issue, saying he favors sign enforcement, but didn't think the signs posed much danger to city infrastructure located under the park strips. He also noted a lot of neighboring cities allow the practice.
Nagle said the city has revised some of its existing restrictions on how long political signs can be displayed because of First Amendment issues involving free speech, but she described the park strip signage question as a conundrum.
"It's a tricky issue. You can go too far in restricting signs," Nagle said.
City Attorney Todd Godfrey weighed in on the matter by letter and suggested when everything is considered, city leaders would be better served to limit signs rather than encourage them.
"Because there are numerous enforcement problems associated with park strip signs, the approach we have found to be overwhelmingly favorable over the years is to prohibit all signs within the park strip. This prevents the city from being placed in an enforcement role with these signs and instead places them within the private property realm," Godfrey said.
Councilman Doug Peterson said he didn't like the fact the issue is being discussed before an election, where it appears politicians are trying to change the regulation for their own benefit.
"I don't think it matters. We're opening a big can of worms," Peterson said of possible revisions to the existing regulation.
Any city code revision would be subject to planning commission review and then city council action, so any changes probably would not be in place this election season. City Manager Bob Rice said city police would not be spending time chasing sign enforcement violations, but he also echoed concerns about the potential liability of allowing any kind of signs on public property.