Sign Regulations Update

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May 12, 2020 update

The City Commission updated its sign regulations on May 11, 2020, upon unanimous adoption of Ordinance 60-20-11.

What you need to know in 60 seconds about the new sign code ... 

  • Removed all content based regulations.
  • Flags are exempted (no regulations)

Residential Regulations – no permit required for the following:

TYPE

Total #

Size per item

Height 

Duration

Temporary

6

4 sq. ft.

4 ft. (max.)

7 days after event

Banner

1

30 sq ft.

na

7 days


-----PLUS-----

Temporary

1

1 sq. ft.

1 ft. (max.)

No time limit but sign must be at least 15 feet from front property line


Commercial Regulations – no permit required for the following (a permit is required for all other signs):

TYPE

Total #

Size per item

Height 

Duration

Temporary

2

8 sq. ft.

6 ft. (max.)

7 days after event

Banner

1

60 sq. ft.

na

60 days or 7 days after event


Here is the presentation made by the Planning and Community Development Department during the May 11, 2020 meeting.

Here is the ordinance.

If you have questions or need additional information, contact the Planning and Community Development Department at (904) 247-5841 or email info@coab.us.

May 6, 2020 update (including a memorandum from the City Attorney addressing whether U.S. flags can be exempt from content-neutral flag regulations )

The City Commission is closing the loop on that decision by considering a constitutionally compliant sign regulation update. Among the provisions being considered are expansions to the number and size of flags allowed per parcel or removing the 2013 inclusion of flags from the sign code, altogether.

Here is a May 6, 2020, memorandum from the City Attorney addressing whether U.S. flags can be exempt from content-neutral flag regulations: “Sign Code – United States Flag Exception”: https://www.coab.us/DocumentCenter/View/12063/Memo-re-flag-exception-May-2020

The sign regulations update has been addressed during numerous public meetings and the City continues to actively seek public input before the ordinance is considered for second reading at the Commission’s regular meeting May 11. The 6:30 p.m. regular meeting will be proceeded by a 5:30 p.m. workshop on the sign regulations update.

Here is information on the May 11 Commission workshop: http://coab.us/Calendar.aspx?EID=6100

Here is the May 11 regular Commission meeting agenda packet, which includes the latest version of the sign regulations update: https://coab.civicweb.net/filepro/documents/15609?preview=18251&splitscreen=true

The City Commission members can be simultaneously emailed at electedofficials@coab.us.

WavyFlagCollageThingUpdated information regarding flags

In 2013, the Atlantic Beach City Commission specifically added flags to its sign regulations by a unanimous vote, without public opposition during either reading of the ordinance. The 2013 ordinance amendment defined flags and restricted the number of flags to two (2) per parcel and limiting each to 24 sq. ft. per flag with the following language:

“Not more than two (2) flags per development parcel, but if there are two (2) flags, then one (1) must be the flag of the United States of America. A development parcel with more than one (1) principal structure may have two (2) flags for each principal structure with more than 5,000 square feet of fully enclosed floor area. Each flag shall not exceed twenty-four (24) square feet in area; however, this size limitation shall not apply to the United States of America flags at public buildings and parks.”

Here is the executed ordinance that added flags to the code (No. 60-13-18): https://www.coab.us/DocumentCenter/View/12066/Ordinance-No--60-13-18-2013-SignCode

Here are the March 25, 2013, meeting minutes: https://www.coab.us/DocumentCenter/View/12065/3-25-13-Commission-minutes

Here are the April 8, 2013, meeting minutes: https://www.coab.us/DocumentCenter/View/12064/4-8-13-Commission-minutes

On Aug. 8, 2016, the City Commission recognized the City’s content-based sign code restrictions to be unconstitutional, agreeing with a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. In its unanimous vote, the Commission agreed to suspend enforcement of all regulations governing temporary noncommercial (residential) signs and guided staff to develop constitutionally compliant, content-neutral revisions to the sign code.

Here is the Commission’s executed resolution stating its intent to comply with Supreme Court: http://coab.us/DocumentCenter/View/11824/Resolution-No-16-04

Here is the video recording of the 2016 meeting at which the topic was discussed in detail, the resolution unanimously approved, and guidance was provided to staff to revise the code: http://atlanticbeachfl.swagit.com/play/07252016-826.

History of AB sign regulations

  1. The City of Atlantic Beach first adopted sign regulations in 1966. The regulations were amended in 1968 (twice), 1981, 1988, 1989, 1993, 1994, 1997 (twice), 2001, 2002, 2003 (twice), 2004, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.
  2. In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that regulations that categorize signs based on the type of information they convey (temporary, political and ideological) and apply different standards to each category are content-based regulations and, thus, are not allowed under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
  3. That ruling meant that nearly every community in Florida, and many throughout the United States, had sign regulations in place that were unconstitutional.
  4. In 2016, acknowledging the unconstitutionality of its sign regulations, the Atlantic Beach City Commission suspended its enforcement of its content-based sign regulations, including temporary, political and ideological signs.
  5. The City of Atlantic’s 2020 sign regulations update would bring the city’s regulations governing temporary into constitutional compliance.
  6. The City wants to hear from Atlantic Beach residents on this and all matters. You may speak at any City Commission meeting; email the entire City Commission at electedofficials@coab.us; contact any of the city commissions directly (see www.coab.us/commissiondirectory); and/or contact Planning and Community Development Director Amanda Askew at aaskew@coab.us.

The Supreme Court case

In the case Reed et al. v. Town of Gilbert, Arizona, et al., (No. 13-502, June 18, 2015), the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that regulations that categorize signs based on the type of information they convey (e.g. temporary, political and ideological) and then apply different standards to each category are content-based regulations of speech and are not allowed under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

In this case, Gilbert, Ariz., had sign regulations that prohibit the display of outdoor signs without a permit, but exempts 23 categories of signs, including the three relevant here:

  • Ideological Signs are defined as signs “communicating a message or ideas” that do not fit in any other category and may be up to 20 square feet without placement or time restrictions.
  • Political Signs are defined as signs “designed to influence the outcome of an election” and may be up to 32 square feet, but may only be displayed during an election season.
  • Temporary Directional Signs are defined as signs directing the public to a church or other “qualifying event” and include greater restrictions: No more than four of the signs, limited to six square feet, may be on a single property at any time, and signs may be displayed no more than 12 hours before the “qualifying event” and 1 hour after.

Upon appeal, the United States Supreme Court held the sign provisions are content-based regulations of speech – the categories of temporary, political and ideological signs are based on their messages and different restrictions apply to each category. As such, the restrictions that depend entirely on the sign’s communicative content and are unconstitutional.

Additional links (in chronological order): 

Want to know more about how communities are dealing with topic? Here’s a helpful essay on Florida sign regulations, legal issues and the First Amendment by Patrick W. Krechowski, Esq.