Sign Size Limitation Okay

By August 3, 2004News

Issues:  Zoning; Art Van Furniture v. City of Kentwood; Muskegon Area Rental Ass’n v City of Muskegon; Sign-size limitation; Variance denial; Sign-size calculation method

Court:  Michigan Court of Appeals (Published)

Case Name: Norman Corp. v. City of E. Tawas

e-Journal Number: 24055

Judge(s): Schuette, Fitzgerald, and Bandstra

The trial court erred by reversing the East Tawas Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) decision denying plaintiffs a sign variance, holding defendant’s sign ordinance unconstitutional and authorizing plaintiffs to erect the sign for which the variance was requested.  The court held the defendant-city’s ordinance was constitutional and its sign-size limitation was valid.  Defendant’s planning commission denied plaintiffs’ sign-permit request because it found the proposed signs would exceed the number and size permitted under the city’s sign ordinance.  The ZBA denied the variance, holding plaintiffs’ problem was self-created.  The court further heldArt Van to be an incorrect statement of law and reversed its holding in lieu of Muskegon Area Rental Ass’n.  Like Art Van, this case presented a legislative maximum sign limitation that effectively distinguished between single- and multi-tenant buildings and the businesses they house.  The fact plaintiffs were treated differently then other businesses was not a predicate for finding the ordinance unconstitutional.  This was a legitimate government interest.  Limiting the size of signs to dissipate visual clutter was reasonably related to protecting the general welfare because visual clutter detracts from the community’s aesthetic value and may create dangerous distractions to passers-by.  Reversed in part and affirmed in part.

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