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Willson v. City of Bel-Nor

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

March 29, 2018

LAWRENCE WILLSON, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF BEL-NOR, MISSOURI, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          RONNIE L. WHITE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         The motion of Lawrence Willson (Plaintiff) for a preliminary injunction enjoining the City of Bel-Nor, Missouri (Bel-Nor) came before the Court for a hearing on March 23, 2018. Plaintiff and William Hook, the mayor pro tern of Bel-Nor, testified. Various documents and photographs were admitted into evidence. The Court now finds and concludes as follows.

         Findings of Fact

         1. Plaintiff is, and at all times relevant has been, a resident of Bel-Nor and owner of a single-family residence.

         2. There are three signs in his front yard. They are freestanding and stake-mounted, and read: "Black Lives Matter"; "Clinton Kaine"; and "Jason Kander U.S. Senate." The "Black Lives Matter" sign has been there since the unrest in Ferguson. The other two signs have been there since the 2016 election. Plaintiff believes these signs have a political message and wishes to continue displaying all three.

         3. Plaintiff received a written warning about his signs in June 2017 for a violation of Bel-Nor Code § 400.270.

         4. In September 2017, Bel-Nor enacted Ordinance No. 983, repealing in full § 400.270. Ordinance 983, enacted after a public hearing and codified as § 400.120(E), reads, in relevant part:

WHEREAS, the City of Bel-Nor wishes to regulate signs within the City in a manner that does not infringe upon the rights granted by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, but that promotes the public safety, health and general welfare of the City and its citizenry, and
WHEREAS, the City is cognizant of the limitations upon the regulation of signs recognized by the Courts, but the City has the power and obligation to its citizens to ensure that signs are not placed and/or maintained in a manner that is harmful to the health, safety and welfare of the City and its citizenry, .. .
BE IT ORDAINED ... AS FOLLOWS:
Sign Regulations
1. Definitions. For purposes of this Section, the following terms shall mean:
Sign: Any poster, object, devise, or display, situated outdoors, which is used to advertise, identify, display, direct or attract attention to an object, person, institution, organization, business, product, service, event, idea, belief or location by any means, including but not limited to words, letters, figures, designs, symbols, colors, logos, fixtures, cartoons or images.
2. Permitted Signs on Private Property. Each improved parcel is allowed to post one stake-mounted self-supporting freestanding sign with no more than two sign faces which are directly back-to-back of one another in the exterior portions of the property as long as the sign meets the following requirements:
(f) No sign shall be affixed to any building, fence, tree, gas light, lamp post, garage, basketball hoop or any structure or improvement.
(g) No. sign shall be displayed from the interior of any window.
3. Prohibitions. The following materials, appurtenances and types of signs are prohibited:
(a) The use of balloons, streamers, banners or similar objects as part of or ...

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