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National News Roundup – May 9, 2022

Monday, May 9, 2022

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US Supreme Court Rules on Signage Case

Decision supports local government ordinances relating to digitized signs.

Austin, Texas, scored an important victory for local governments in a signage case recently decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Austin allows on-premises signs to be digitized, but not those placed off premises. The city’s sign code prohibits any new off-premises digitized signs but has grandfathered in existing signs.

Reagan National Advertising, the opposing party, argued that the distinction allowing only on-premises signs to be digitized violates the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause.

Writing for the 6-3 majority, Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted that “‘tens of thousands of municipalities nation-wide’ have adopted analogous on-/off-premises distinctions in their sign codes.” Likewise, since the Highway Beautification Act of 1965, “approximately two-thirds of States have implemented similar on-/off-premises distinctions.”

Justice Sotomayor noted that Austin’s sign ordinance does not single out any topic or subject matter for different treatment, so the city’s rules are not content-discriminatory. Rather, the City’s provisions distinguish signage based on location: A given sign’s treatment is based solely on whether it is located on the same premises as the subject being discussed or not.

The court took note of the argument that accidents are an issue because on-premises signage is not as distracting as off-premises signs.

Go here to view or download a copy of the ruling.

(Source: International City/County Management Association)

Denver Seeks Help for Homelessness Strategy

City wants to let people without lodging sleep in their cars on parking sites. 

Denver, Colorado, is seeking proposals from service providers to administer a “safe parking” program that would allow people experiencing homelessness to stay overnight in private vehicles.

The program will be backed by $150,000 in funds from the American Rescue Plan Act and would start with temporary parking sites that meet city charter and zoning rules.

Safe parking was identified as a strategy in the Denver Department of Housing Stability (HOST) five-year strategic plan, which seeks to reduce unsheltered homelessness by 50 percent between 2022 and 2026 and offer more temporary shelter assistance.

HOST Deputy Director Angie Nelson said the program is flexible and could involve partners using city land, private land or that of faith-based organizations. Safe parking, she said, is part of the department’s “harm reduction” approach, which “meets people where they’re at” and offers safety and support accompanied by resources to restore housing.

Nan Roman, CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, noted that safe parking schemes like the one under consideration in Denver are not a permanent solution.

“They are stopgap measures, as so many interventions are,” Roman said. “The only solution to homelessness is housing … and we don’t have enough housing right now.”

Similar programs have been launched in other cities including Los Angeles, Berkeley, California, Seattle, Washington, and Eugene, Oregon.

(Source: SmartCitiesDive)

Homeowners Sue FL City Over Drain Pipe Usage

Lawsuit: Jacksonville used private pipe for storm runoff without permission.

A lawsuit filed against the City of Jacksonville, Florida, contends that just because a drainage pipe exists and it is convenient, doesn’t mean a local government can use it without permission.

Dianne and Jay Higbee have an underground drainage pipe on their property. It empties into the St. Johns River. The Higbees claim the City of Jacksonville used their private drainage pipe to handle storm water from municipal streets. They also claim the city did not obtain a written easement permitting use of the private drainage pipe to handle storm water runoff.

The case was brought in federal court in the Middle District of Florida.

(Source: Daily Business Review via Law.com)

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The above news items are provided for informational purposes and are not intended to reflect MMRMA opinions, coverage, or risk management recommendations. Please contact Membership Services if you have specific risk control questions or concerns.