Collinsville Sign Ordinance Interpretation – A Bair of a Law

This began with a conversation between myself and a landlord in Collinsville, Illinois where I was told of another landlord who placed a for rent sign on another person’s property, with permission and both were cited by the City for an “off premises” sign. The City apparantly made an issue out of the sign being “off premises”; a direct violation of the Code. A lawyer got involved and sent an email inquiry to one of the code enforcers who then forwarded the inquiry on to a Mr. Mitch Bair who is the AICP Community Development Director for the City of Collinsville. Mr. Bair went on over email to explain the “off premises” meaning within the Code and how that applies to real estate signs.

For the unitiated, let’s begin with the basic premise that people in government lie. They lie all the time. It is not a crime to lie. They know that the majority of people never study law, never read the laws, and would rather seek the path of least resistance and pay their petty fees than challenge them. It is up to you to familiarize yourself with the law and the limits of their power. If you allow them to run rough-shod over you then it is your own undoing and you cannot come back at them for your ignorance or apathy.

The story goes, a landlord had a property for rent that was off the public thoroughfare and as such, a for rent sign on the property would not be visible to the public. They made an arrangement with another neighbor to place the sign in their yard so as to direct traffic to the rental and the City cited both the landlord and the neighbor for illegal display of an “off premises” sign. The issue here being, how can two parties be cited for the same offense and is the violation, “off premises sign” applicable to rental signs?

I’ll not use the proper names of the landlords in this piece since retaliation by the City is not a foregone conclusion against people who speak out. I received an email from a Ms. Jane Doe wherein one of the code enforcers, Cassie Meyer, replied to a previous inquiry. Ms. Meyer wrote:

Hello Jane Doe,

You can put one “œFor Rent” sign at the house that is available for rent. Off-premise signs are not permitted, so you cannot put one in your neighbor”™s yard.
 
Open House signs are the exception””you may put one on site and one at the end of the street for the day prior and the day of the Open House. You do not need a permit for that but they must be removed after the event is over.
 
Please make sure that the signs are off of the public right of way, and let me know if you have any further questions. Thank you!
 
Cassie Meyer
Management Analyst
City of Collinsville
(618)346-5200 ext. 128
 
E-MAIL CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE:  The contents of this e-mail message and any attachments are intended solely for the adressee(s) and may contain confidential and/or legally privileged information.  If you are note the intended recipient of this message, or if this message has been addressed to you in error, please immediately alert the sender by reply e-mail and then delete this message and any attachments.  If you are not the intended recipient, you are notified that any use, dissemination, copying, or storage of this message or any attachment is strictly prohibited.

I particularly like the “CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE” that prohibits the “dissemination” of this message. I’ll be waiting. Nevertheless, it was this email that was forwarded to a lawyer named Thomas Spooner who then addressed Ms. Meyer about her interpretation of the Code and directing Jane Doe as to what was legal.

We first need to look at Ms. Meyer’s use of the word “off premises”. The Collinsville Municipal Code is maintained by Municode (http://www.municode.com/). You can access the code by visiting this link http://www2.collinsvilleil.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=105&Itemid=154 or by going to Municode.com, click “Browse the Library”, select “Illinois” and then Collinsville (http://www.municode.com/Library/IL/Collinsville). The ordinance regulating signage comes under Zoning (Title 17), Chapter 17.190 (Signage – General Provisions).Let’s first begin with the City’s General Regulations at Sec. 17.190.030 which state:

A. General prohibitions. Any graphic or sign not expressly permitted by this chapter is prohibited in the City of Collinsville.

That is a pretty bold and all-encompasing statement, the authority for such not to be addressed in this piece, but bear that statement in-mind when we get into some statements by the City regarding what is/is not permitted.

There is a section titled Definitions at 17.190.020. Despite what a dictionary may say, or your personal experience, a word used on an ordinance, statute, or law means ONLY what is defined in the Definitions, if it is defined there. So, if you think “off premises” means simply something not on a premises then you would be wrong since the word off-premises is defined in the ordinance. The word can have no other meaning once the Code defines it. It does not mean, “In addition to what you THINK the word means, it shall also mean this….” It means that, “We have defined the word here for its application to the Code and this definition shall control regardless of what you think it means.” So many people who have never studied law persume to apply their own interpretation and definitions.

Let’s examine “off premises”, per the Code. If we search the Code for the word “off-premises” (with the hyphen) we find 2 references in Title 17 – Zoning – Definitions:

Billboard. See “off-premises graphic”.

Off-premises graphic means a sign structure advertising an establishment, merchandise, service, or entertainment, which is not sold, produced, manufactured, or furnished at the property on which said sign is located.

At first blush, it would appear that it specifically applies to billboards. It is also a “sign structure”. A sign structure advertising an establishment, merchandise, service, or entertainment. What is an “establishment”?

Establishment means either of the following:

1. An institutional, business, commercial, or industrial activity that is the sole occupant of one (1) or more buildings, or

2. An institutional, business, commercial, or industrial activity that occupies a portion of a building such that:

a. The activity is a logical and separate entity from the other activities within the building and not a department of the whole, and

b. The activity has either a separate entrance from the exterior of the building, or a separate entrance from a common and clearly defined entryway that has direct access to the exterior of the building.

It sppears that an “establishment” has nothing to do with rental property. It deals with institutional, business, commercial, or industrial activity. So an off-premises graphic is a sign structure that advertises commercial activity, merchandise, services, or entertainment not found on the same property as where the sign is located.

So far, we are unconvinced that an “off-premises” sign applies to a stick in the mud with a piece or paper which reads “For Rent”. The evidence points to them being directly related to billboards, and being structures advertising establishments. The Code does go on to further address Off-premises signs. Looking at Sec. 17.190.040 7. – Prohibited, per,mitted and types of signs we find:

Off-premises signs.

a.Off-premises signs are permitted on either side of a federal interstate highway for six hundred sixty (660) feet from the nearest edge of the right-of-way, in accordance with the State Highway Advertising Control Act, 225 ILCS 440/1 through 440/16 and as it may hereafter be amended. See Subsection 17.190.010.B. which also exempts from this chapter the regulation of all advertising signs within six hundred sixty (660) feet of the nearest edge of the right-of-way of federal interstate highways.

b.Off-premises signs are permitted on commercial or industrial zone district lots or parcels of land that adjoin Illinois Route 157 right-of-way from Belt Line Road north to the City limits line and from Main Street south to the City limits line and on commercial or industrial zone district lots/parcels of land adjoining Illinois Route 159 right-of-way from Belt Line Road northerly to the City limits line and from S. Clinton south and westerly to the City limits lines, as provided for below in Subsection 5.).

1.) No such off-premises signs shall be located closer than three hundred (300) feet to another off-premises sign, on either side of the highway.

2.) All off-premises signs shall be constructed upon a single pole made of steel or metal of equivalent strength.

3.) No off-premises sign shall exceed thirty (30) feet at its highest point.

4.) Off-premises signs shall not be permitted within or over the public right-of-way.

5.) No more than five (5) off-premises signs are permitted per mile on each side of the highway. Nonconforming off-premises signs shall be included in this determination.

6.) The graphic area allowance for off-premises signs shall not exceed three hundred (300) square feet on property adjoining Illinois Route 157 from Belt Line Road north to the City limits and from Main Street south to the City limits, and on property adjoining Illinois Route 159 from Belt Line Road northerly to the City limits line and from South Clinton south and westerly to the City limits line.

7.) All off-premises signs erected while the moratorium has been in effect and now deemed illegal will be removed.

8.) Regulations contained in Subsections 17.190.020, 17.190.030.B””G., 17.190.040.A, 17.190.040.B., 17.190.050.E. and the administration and enforcement sections apply to off-premises signs.

First, notice how off-premises signs are described as being constructed of “single pole made of steel or metal”, “not exceeding 30 feet”….. This is clearly describing something large, like a billboard. It does NOT mean, “Not being on the premises” as a sole identifier. It has to do with size, construction, placement, and what is advertised.

So, if the City has gone through such lenghts to define “off-premises” signs in the Code, where does the confusion with rental signs come from? Well, the Code also addresses rental signs. Words such as “rental signs”, “real estate signs”, “for sale signs”, are not defined with respect to real estate. However, they are addressed in Sec. 17.190.040 – Prohibited, permitted and types of signs, under Subsection B, 13.

Permitted graphics. Every graphic enumerated below that complies with the indicated requirements may be erected in any zoning district of this City without a permit. The area of such graphics shall not be debited against the displaying establishment’s sign area allowance:

Real estate signs indicating the sale, rental, or lease of the premises on which said signs are located. Such signs on residential property shall not exceed nine (9) square feet in area; on other commercial property such signs shall not exceed thirty-two (32) square feet. No more than one (1) real estate sign per street front shall be placed on any lot. Such signs shall be removed within seven (7) days after the sale, rental, or lease.

The Real estate sign provision does use the word “premises”, but it does not use “off-premises”. Off-premises has already been defined and cannot be applied in this case since the definition already does not apply.

Below is the email thread between Thomas Spooner and Mitch Bair. The email is being used with permission of Mr. Spooner.
Notice how Bair attempts to define the use of real estate signs to suit himself and even cite non-existent provisions of the Code:

This is the email sent by Thomas Spooner to Cassie Meyer, who then forwarded to Mitch Bair for assistance.

From: Cassie Meyer Sent: Monday, January 07, 2013 9:37 AM To:
 Mitch E. Bair Subject: FW: Collinsville Sign Ordinance and Rental
  Property

 What would you like to do with this?

 From: Thomas Spooner [mailto:the.darrow.lawfirm@gmail.com] Sent:
  Saturday, January 05, 2013 10:30 PM To: Cassie Meyer Subject:
 Collinsville Sign Ordinance and Rental Property

 Hello, Ms. Meyer,

 I am contacting you for what I believe to be a
 misinterpretation/misapplication of the Collinsville sign
 ordinance (Chapter 17.190 et seq.) as relayed to me by several
 residents on the subject of property/rental signage. I am
 considering placing signs for property which is for rent, but
 which property is not where the sign will be placed due to
 visibility issues from the actual property. I have been cautioned
 against such practice by some who, subsequent to a
 grape-vine-hearsay rendition of the code’s interpretation by
 yourself and others, that such practice is prohibited and
 considered to be “off premises” signage. I wish to clarify by
 contacting you directly to as to avoid any unnecessary conflict
 or confrontation on the applicability of the Code.

 The advice I was given, and I am paraphrasing, was that, for-rent
  signs must be posted on the property which is for rent, and
 cannot be placed on another property. Such a sign is considered
 by the City as an “off premises” sign. I beg to differ.

 Referring to Sec. 17.190.020 – Definitions of the Code, the only
  reference to “off-premises” relates not to signs, but to
 graphics. I may be splitting hairs, but I wish to speak
 specifically and deliberately. There, we find a definition for
 “Off-premises graphic”, which means, “a sign structure
 advertising an establishment, merchandise, service, or
 entertainment, which is not sold, produced, manufactured, or
 furnished at the property on which said sign is located.” Given
 the nature of renting one’s house/apartment/domicile/abode… I
 fail to find any parity with an “establishment, merchandise,
 service, or entertainment”. Likewise, I am not offering any of
 the like being sold, produced, manufactured, or furnished, at
 said property. Therefore, I believe the classification of a
 rental sign posted somewhere other than where the property for
 rent is located as being an “off-premises” sign misleading,
 irresponsible, specious, and injurious to those upon whom
 penalties are assessed for transgressing an obvious fabrication.
 An “off premises” sign appears to conform more to what one would
 consider a billboard.

 While on the topic of real-estate/rental signs, let me direct you
  to Sec. 17.190.040 B. “Permitted Graphics, which reads to wit,
 “Every graphic enumerated below that complies with the indicated
  requirements may be erected in any zoning district of this City
  without a permit. The area of such graphics shall not be debited
  against the displaying establishment’s sign area allowance:”.
 Furthermore, the nearest definition applying in such a case is
 for 17.190.040 B. 13 – Real Estate signs, which reads, “Real
 estate signs indicating the sale, rental, or lease of the
 premises on which said signs are located. Such signs on
 residential property shall not exceed nine (9) square feet in
 area; on other commercial property such signs shall not exceed
 thirty-two (32) square feet. No more than one (1) real estate
 sign per street front shall be placed on any lot. Such signs
 shall be removed within seven (7) days after the sale, rental, or
 lease.” This is the closest definition to the kind of signs I am
 posting. However, there is nothing _prohibiting_ the placement of
 a rental sign on property different from the rental itself. For a
 sign to meet the definition of a “real estate sign”, the rental
 sign must be placed on the rental property, but it is not
 mandated that it be done as such. There is no definition for the
 type of signs I will be placing, and therefore, outside the
 enforceability of the Code.

 I was also told of a class of sign called “open house signs” that
  can be posted off the public right-of-way and which do not
 require a permit. I fail to find a definition or mention of an
 “open house sign”, in the Code. As I will not be performing an
 open house, I will not concern myself with that fiction until the
 time comes.

 In closing, there is an anecdote involving someone who placed a
 for rent sign on another individual’s property and both parties
 were fined for having violated the sign ordinance. I have not yet
  determined if this is true, but if it is, it is patently illegal
  and unlawful to fine both the landlord and the individual, upon
  whose property the sign was posted. I would be interested in
 your interpretation of that scenario and whether you can confirm
 or deny it ever having taken place. I can assure you, the people
 who are permitting me to place for rent signs on their property
 have been properly versed on the intent and application of the
 Code, as well as the limitations regarding its enforcement upon
 them. Notwithstanding any lawful citation to the contrary, or
 compelling interpretation of the code as it may apply in the
 above circumstances, I will consider the Code inapplicable in
 such circumstances and reserve my prerogative to act accordingly
  considering that silence is acquiescence.

 Thank you for your time and I look forward to your response.

 Sincerely,

 Thomas Spooner

This is the first response from Mitch Bair in response to Spooner’s email to Cassie Meyer.

On 1/7/2013 10:16 AM, Mitch E. Bair wrote:
 Mr. Spooner;

 Ms. Meyer forwarded me your inquiry regarding the advertisement
 of property for sale or lease at a location other than that of
 the location of the property for sale or lease. Unfortunately our
  current code prohibits this approach and requires the signage
 for the property in question to be located on the same premise
 and property of that for sale or lease.

 1.     Section 17.930.150 Definitions Graphic:  Any
 identification or advertising sign visible from the public
 right-of-way or from any parking area used by the general public.
 Sign:  A sign is any object, device, display or structure or part
 thereof, whether located inside or outside a building, which is
 visible from any lot line, and the primary purpose of which is
 the conveyance of an idea, advertising, endorsement,
 identification, or information by means of visual symbols,
 lettering, illustration or any other means of directing attention
 or communicating a message. Off Premises Graphic:  A sign
 structure advertising an establishment, merchandise, service, or
 entertainment, which is not sold, produced, manufactured, or
 furnished at the property on which said sign is located. The
 definitions clearly establish that a graphic is a sign and both a
 graphic and a sign constitute advertising products, services or
 entertainment for sale, rent or lease. Further, off premise
 signage is defined.

 2.     Section 17.930.240 Permitted Graphics: M. “Real estate
 signs indicating the sale, rental, or lease of the premises on
 which said signs are located. Such signs on residential property
 shall not exceed nine (9) square feet in area; on other
 commercial property such signs shall not exceed thirty-two (32)
 square feet. No more than one real estate sign per street front
 shall be placed on any lot. Such signs shall be removed within
 seven (7) days after the sale, rental or lease.” This section
 clearly mandates that all rental signs must be located on the
 same premise or property as that of the property being sold,
 rented or leased and may be placed on said property without a
 permit as long as it meets the requirements of this section.

 3.     Section 17.930.230 Prohibited Graphics or Signs: F.
 “Off-premise signs except as provided in Section 17.930.260G.”
 Any sign or graphic located not on the premise or property as the
  service, product or entertainment for sale, rent or lease is
 defined as an off premise sign and is prohibited. This also
 applies to real estate signs or graphics.

 Regarding the question of this issuance of citations for
 violating these regulations I can only say that we have issued
 citations for violation but can give no other specific details.
 This code is applied consistently as other City codes and
 violations are addressed with citations through our code
 enforcement process. Please be advised that all signage for real
 estate offered either for sale, rent or lease must meet the
 requirements listed above and shall be located on the property
 that is being sold, rented ort leased. If you have any further
 comments or questions please do not hesitate to contact me at
 your convenience and I would be happy to discuss this with you.

 Thank you Mitch

 Mitchell E. Bair, AICP Community Development Director The City of
  Collinsville 125 South Center Street Collinsville, IL  62234
 Email: mbair@collinsvilleil.org<;;mailto:mbair@collinsvilleil.org
 Voice: 618.346.5200 ext. 120 Cell: 618.301.2568 Fax:
 618.343.9192

 E-MAIL CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE:  The contents of this e-mail
 message and any attachments are intended solely for the
 addressee(s) and may contain confidential and/or legally
 privileged information. If you are not the intended recipient of
 this message, or if this message has been addressed to you in
 error, please immediately alert the sender by reply e-mail and
 then delete this message and any attachments. If you are not the
 intended recipient, you are notified that any use, dissemination,
 distribution, copying, or storage of this message or any
 attachment is strictly prohibited.

This is Spooner’s response to Bair’s email.

Mr. Bair,
Thank you for your response.
I must differ with the application of an “off premises graphic”
being applied to rental signs. The definition for off premises
graphic clearly pertains to things having nothing to do with
renting property. Rental property is not an establishment,
merchandise, service, or entertainment.

Where you refer to off-premises signs also applying to real estate
signs, that statement is unsupported by the definition in the
Code, i.e., establishment, merchandise, service, or entertainment.
Your statement, “This also applies to real estate signs or
graphics.” appears to be a personal interpretation and not a direct
code citation.

The code does not mandate that real estate signs be located on the
property being rented/sold/leased. It merely defines what
constitutes a real estate sign. If a rental sign is not placed on
the rental property it does not meet the definition of a real
estate sign and is simply a sign. Notwithstanding the code at Sec.
17.190.030. – General regulations.

A.General prohibitions. Any graphic or sign not expressly permitted
by this chapter is prohibited in the City of Collinsville.
There are free speech concerns present if the matter does not
involve commercial speech.

I will aver that the definition of sign/graphic may embrace the
type of sign I mentioned, but I do not believe that “off-premises”
graphics apply.

For clarification, should a sign be placed on a property other
than the one being rented/leased/sold, would the City seek to cite
both the individual posting the sign on their property or the
individual renting the property; and could you please refer me to
the Code section authorizing any such action?
Thank you again for your time.
Thomas Spooner

This is Bair’s response to Spooner’s response.

On 1/7/2013 12:45 PM, Mitch E. Bair wrote:
 Mr. Spooner;

 The code defines a real estate sign and states where they are
 permitted. If they are not placed on the property then they are a
 commercial sign and fall under the regulations of Section
 17.930.260, “Commercial Zone Districts”. If the property signage is
 not located at that said property it is then an off premise sign by
 definition and thereby prohibited. Given the definition of a real
 estate sign includes the statement of “the premises on which said
 signs are located” this is a regulatory restriction on where these
 signs may be located.

 In the event that a violation of any provision of the Zoning
 Regulations is found the owner of the premise is issued a citation.
 This power is provided in the Zoning Regulations under Section
 17.140, “Violations and Penalties”.

 Thank you Mitch

This is Spooner’s response to Bair’s response.

Mr. Bair,

Thanks again for your quick response. I am not able to reply as
quickly as I would like, as I am traveling with limited access to the
Internet.

I searched the code for Section 17.930.260, with no results. Is this
possibly a typo? Also, your statement, “If they are not placed on the
property then they are a commercial sign” is not supported by the
Code. The Code provides for the dimensions of the rental sign on
either residential or commercial property, but it does not state that
if the real estate sign is not on the premises then it is a commercial
sign. Nothing in the code attempts to redefine a real estate sign as a
commercial sign by virtue of its placement.

I believe we are looking at two interpretations of the work
“premises”. Colloquially, if something is not on a premises then it is
off-premises. The Code specifically defines “off premises” and
therefore, the general interpretation, not being on the premises, does
not apply. The Code is specific when it defines off-premises as a sign
structure advertising an establishment, merchandise, service, or
entertainment, which is not sold, produced, manufactured, or furnished
at the property on which said sign is located. Rental property does
not fit that definition. The use of the word “premises” in the real
estate sign definition cannot be extended to include off-premises,
since off-premises has its own special definition, and premises is not
defined in the Code so the common parlance would apply.
Your reference to “Commercial Zone Districts” deals with
establishments and/or commercial and industrial propertyes.
The code even goes on to define an “establishment”:
Establishment means either of the following:
1.An institutional, business, commercial, or industrial activity that
is the sole occupant of one (1) or more buildings, or
2.An institutional, business, commercial, or industrial activity that
occupies a portion of a building such that:
a.The activity is a logical and separate entity from the other
activities within the building and not a department of the whole, and
b.The activity has either a separate entrance from the exterior of the
building, or a separate entrance from a common and clearly defined
entryway that has direct access to the exterior of the building.
Clearly, the “establishment” defined in the Code pertains to
commercial activity. And as such, rental property not dealing with
merchandise, a service, or entertainment, the definition of
“off-premises”, as defined in the Code, cannot apply to rental property.

Therefore,

The code defines a real estate sign and states where they are
permitted – Agreed
If they are not placed on the property then they are a commercial sign
and fall under the regulations of Section 17.930.260, “Commercial Zone
Districts”. – Unsupported statement lacking citation
If the property signage is not located at that said property it is
then an off premise sign by definition and thereby prohibited. –
Unsupported statement. Off premises has been defined by the Code and
does not embrace real estate signs. The Code definitions even define
Billboard. See “off-premises graphic”.

Given the definition of a real estate sign includes the statement of
“the premises on which said signs are located” this is a regulatory
restriction on where these signs may be located. – Subject to
interpretation. I understand the City does not want real estate signs
littering the landscape, but where a property is removed from the
public thoroughfare and an agreement can be reached with another
individual to place the sign on their property, I think the code
as-written is prejudiced against the individual wishing to rent that
property.
Thank you again for your response.
Thomas Spooner

Having still not received a response from Bair, Spooner sent another email inquiring about the “Open House” sign referenced by Cassie Meyer, which is NOT found in the code.

Mr. Bair,
I still have not received a response to my last email, but in the
mean-time, I also notice part of my original inquiry to Cassie Meyer
was not addressed, particularly the “open house” provision.
I had previously stated, to wit:
“I was also told of a class of sign called “open house signs” that
can be posted off the public right-of-way and which do not require
a permit.”

The Code does not address “open house signs”, and Ms. Meyer made
direct mention of such a sign in one of her communications to another
individual. Can you provide a definition of “open house sign”, per the
code, and the regulations involving the display of such signs? Per Ms.
Meyer, and I am paraphrasing, they may be placed on site and at the
end of the street for the day prior and the day of the Open House.
They do not require a permit, but must be removed after the event is over.
Now, under the City’s legal interpretation of real estate signs, as
you say, “by definition”, this would be an “off premises” sign and
thereby, illegal.

I also find it curious why Ms. Meyer diverted my original inquiry to
you as opposed to answering directly since she is presumed to be a
knowledgeable enforcement officer. If Ms. Meyer is rendering legal
opinions of her own to residents and issuing citations based upon her
interpretation of the code then I would expect her to respond
directly. This is not to say that I find your opinion any less-valid,
but I want to make sure that whatever information I receive is derived
from an authoritative source so as to avoid confusion. Should I
possibly need to speak to corporate counsel on this matter, and to
whom would I address such inquiry?
Thank you in advance. I still await your response.
Thomas Spooner.

Bair finally responded on 1/14/13

Mr. Spooner;

Open House Signs are regulated as Real Estate Signs as they effectively sell real estate. Therefore they fall under the same regulatory guidelines and restrictions (must be placed on the site of the property in question for lease, rent or sale). You inquiry was directed to me as the Director of Community Development as I render the Code interpretations. Ms. Meyer administers the permitting process and does not engage in enforcement and both of those processes are based on Code and my interpretation thereof. Any legal questions should be made to Mr. Steve Giacoletto, Corporate Counsel, whom I have copied on this email.

Thank you
Mitch

Mitchell E. Bair, AICP
Community Development Director
The City of Collinsville
125 South Center Street
Collinsville, IL  62234
Email: mbair@collinsvilleil.org
Voice: 618.346.5200 ext. 120
Cell: 618.301.2568
Fax: 618.343.9192

E-MAIL CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE:  The contents of this e-mail message and any attachments are intended solely for the addressee(s) and may contain confidential and/or legally privileged information. If you are not the intended recipient of this message, or if this message has been addressed to you in error, please immediately alert the sender by reply e-mail and then delete this message and any attachments. If you are not the intended recipient, you are notified that any use, dissemination, distribution, copying, or storage of this message or any attachment is strictly prohibited.

Spooner’s response on 1/15/13 that also went to Cassie Meyer and Corporate Counsel Steve Giacoletto

Mr. Bair,
IF, open house signs are regulated as Real Estate signs, yet they are
not defined in the Code, where does the authority rest for making such
a determination? You had previously stated, “Please be advised that
all signage for real estate offered either for sale, rent or lease
must meet the requirements listed above and shall be located on the
property that is being sold, rented or leased.” Clearly that statement did not
take into account the ad hoc “Open House” provision since you are now
making an allowance for Open House signs which, “effectively sell real
estate” to be placed “off-premises”.

Since, as you say, if a rental sign is not on the premises being
rented it is “by definition” an “off-premises” sign and is prohibited
(your words, not mine). Placing an Open House sign at the end of the
street is no different than placing a for rent sign in a neighbor’s
yard. They are both “off of the premises” in-question, yet you allow
one and not the other?

Off-premises signs are billboards and NOT rental or real estate signs,
or anything else not on a premises. It is a legal term and not
descriptive of a situation.

The code does not define an Open House sign, and are thereby illegal.
Quoting Sec. 17.190.030 A. “General prohibitions. Any graphic or sign
not expressly permitted by this chapter is prohibited in the City of
Collinsville.” Open House signs appear nowhere in the Code and any
decision to “regulate” them must be supported by the Code. Otherwise,
the phrases such as “arbitrary and capricious” and “void for
vagueness” come readily to mind. Perhaps I shall have an “Open House”
for one of my rental properties since it is essentially a Real Estate
sign and although a rental sign in my neighbor’s yard is “considered”,
but not supported by the Code, “off-premises”, the illegal
“off-premises” provision does not apply if I invite the public
directly to view my rental property.

Now, I’ll anticipate your next response by answering, “Open House
signs deal with property for sale and not for rent.” by asking you to
refer to the Code where that distinction is made.

IF you, as you say, are the individual tasked with rendering the
interpretation of the Code then is it you I shall expect to meet in an
adversarial proceeding in Municipal Court following a citation for
violating the Signage regulations? I believe it is the judge who
determines, as they say, “What the law is”. Will you offer testimony
as to the application of the letter-of-the-law to support your
interpretation?

I still have yet to find the code you referenced earlier, “If they are
not placed on the property then they are a commercial sign and fall
under the regulations of Section 17.930.260, “Commercial Zone
Districts.” There is no Section 17.930.260 and the only reference to
Commercial Zone Districts in the signage regulations deals with
Commercial Districts. An “unauthorized off-premises” real estate sign
on residential property does not convert that property to a Commercial
Zone District.

I believe I’ve made a good faith effort to clarify provisions of the
Code which could affect actions I may be taking in the near future. I
have not accepted your application of the Code, or your
interpretation, as I have been provided inconsistencies, inaccuracies,
and opinion unsupported by facts. If yours is simply the official
response for the City’s interpretation of the Code then I am
comfortable proceeding as planned with my understanding of the Code as
a guide.

Thank you again for your time and efforts. I look forward to an
on-point explanation of what has become less-clear than when started.
Maybe Mr. Giacoletto can shed some light on the matter. I expect to
return to the Country within the next few weeks. As I am directing my
proxies to act accordingly, it is important that I, as well as they,
do so under reasonable expectations of how the City may respond with
respect to the Code.
Thomas Spooner

Awaiting a response from either Bair or Giacoletto…

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