Village Ordinance Limiting Sign Size and Location Upheld by Seventh Circuit

Published September 26, 2019
The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently issued a decision with regard to a village ordinance limiting the size and location of signs. In Leibundguth Storage & Van Service, Inc. v. Village of Downers Grove, No. 16-3055 (7th Circ. 2019), Plaintiff sued the Village of Downers Grove claiming that a sign ordinance violated the business's First Amendment rights because the ordinance was a form of content discrimination. The ordinance limited the size and location of signs located in the Village but included a variety of exceptions. The District Court found that because principal topic of the ordinance was commercial speech, the ordinance was valid.

On appeal, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the District Court's decision after determining that the ordinance did not violate the business's First Amendment rights as applied. The Seventh Circuit noted that a limit on the size and presentation of signs is a standard time, place, and manner rule, and a form of aesthetic zoning; it also observed that the Supreme Court has previously held that aesthetic limits on signs are compatible with the First Amendment. The Seventh Circuit dismissed Plaintiff's argument that the ordinance discriminated on the basis of content because, though the Village's ordinance contains exclusions of certain signs from coverage under the ordinance, the only issues with Plaintiff's signs were related primarily to size and presentation limitations. While not as large as preferred, the Seventh Circuit noted that Plaintiff's business could still utilize a large sign under the ordinance and additionally could advertise through print and the internet as well. Thus, the court found the ordinance valid as applied to the Plaintiff for First Amendment purposes.