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Revised Lula sign ordinance set for public hearing
Proposal looking to ensure free speech comes after U.S. Supreme Court ruling
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Lula City Council is proposing sign ordinance changes officials say are meant to satisfy theSupreme Court decision in June that upended restrictions on some local government ordinances that ostensibly curtailed free speech rights.

Public hearing

What: Lula City Council

When: 6 p.m. Monday

Where: City Hall, 6055 Main St.

Reacting to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling earlier this year, Lula is proposing changes to its sign ordinance that explicitly says it doesn’t restrict sign content.

“What’s fair for one has got to be fair for all,” City Manager Dennis Bergin said.

The northeast Hall County city is holding a public hearing at 6 p.m. Monday on changes officials say are meant to satisfy the high court decision in June that upended restrictions on some local government ordinances that ostensibly curtailed free speech rights.

The high court ruled that the city government of Gilbert, Ariz., a suburb of Phoenix, imposed unconstitutional restrictions on temporary signs, including on their size, location, duration and number, that directed motorists to nearby church services.

Signs with political and ideological messages were granted much greater leeway by the city, specifically in terms of their size.

“The ruling pretty much affected almost every community that had a sign ordinance,” Bergin said. “Our ordinance … was void of a statement that we don’t regulate content — that’s basically the change in our amendment.

“If (signs are) good for one area, they’re good for any area, any person or business.”

Free speech is one thing, but the ordinance does prohibit signs that “contain words, pictures or statements which are obscene, as defined by (state law),” the ordinance states.

Earlier this year, Lula City Council voted to stop reviewing and processing applications for sign permits for 60 days to evaluate the impact of the ruling.

During that time, “we went out and looked at what other communities were doing, and we revisited our entire ordinance,” Bergin said.

Hall County went through a similar ordeal earlier this year, including a moratorium on sign permits.

And like Lula, Hall officials said they chose to make changes and additions to clarify that free speech will not be infringed.

The county’s updated ordinance makes clear that local government will allow the “maximum expression of speech for messages on signs, whether of a commercial or noncommercial nature.”

And county officials added the definition of what constitutes an obscene sign and what can be prohibited.

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