New Market looking to update its sign ordinances

The town of New Market is looking into updating its ordinances for signs.

Town Zoning and Planning Administrator Chad Neese said the town is considering adjusting its ordinances to be in line with the Supreme Court’s June 18 decision in the Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Arizona, case.

The Supreme Court ruled that Gilbert had violated free speech rights of the First Amendment by having sign ordinances that restricted the size and display time for various types of signs.

The town had different ordinances for signs displaying ideological information and signs that displayed information for an event or gathering.

Although nothing has been decided as of yet, Neese said the town’s planning commission discussed the possible ordinance changes at its regular meeting on Monday.

“We’re in the middle of a comprehensive update,” Neese said, noting that the Reed v. Town of Gilbert ruling was announced as the town was in the middle of this process.

“We saw that some of the proposed changes looked like they would be in conflict with how the court ruled,” Neese explained, noting that the town canceled a planned public hearing to “go back to drawing board.”

Neese added, “We decided to just take it back to the drawing board and see if we could get something drafted that would be more compliant with how they decided other locality’s issues.

“We’re working on how that would look and work.”

Neese added, “It looks like we’re going to have to make quite a few changes, but at the same time, we kind of need to review everything almost on a case-by-case basis.”

Any changes to the town’s sign ordinances would affect any resident, organization or business looking to put a sign up throughout town, Neese noted.

In addition, Neese said the town is looking to update its ordinances, which he added were adopted in the early 1990’s and have not seen significant changes in that time.

“We’re just trying to bring them up to more of what you know and are accustomed to seeing [in] today’s world,” Neese said.

Neese said that the town does not have a strict timetable on any changes and that he is not sure when the town will adopt any changes that are made.

At the commission’s meeting on Monday, it discussed a variance request from  Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation to make a sign that is bigger than the town’s ordinance allows at its New Market location.

“The whole idea is that it would increase their overall visibility to folks passing through the community, with the hopes of attracting them into their building,” Neese said.

He said the commission decided to recommend to the town’s Board of Zoning Appeals that it deny the foundation’s request.

“They didn’t feel that the application rose to the level to warrant the granting of a variance,” Neese said.

There will be a public hearing on the request later this month, he said. The Board of Zoning Appeals will decide whether to approve or deny the request from the foundation.

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com