LOWER SALFORD — The township plans to take another look at its sign ordinance after receiving a complaint about a Quarry Road sign put up during last year's elections and still remaining up.
Township rules say political campaign signs must be taken down within five days after the election. The township, however, has said that isn't the issue in this case.
"The staff has taken the perspective that it's a free speech issue," Township Manager Joe Czajkowski said at the Lower Salford Township Board of Supervisors' May 4 morning work session meeting.
"The sign simply says 'Trump,'" he said. "It doesn't necessarily say 'Elect Trump' or 'Trump 2020' or whatever."
"Political signs are signs that relate to the 'election of a person to public office, or a political party, or a matter to be voted upon at an election or referendum by the general public, or a limited group thereof,'" Michael Beuke, the township's director of building & zoning, quoted from the township's zoning ordinance in an April 5 response letter to a complaint about the sign.
"Instead, this sign appears to be an expression of free speech; and is not a sign regulated by the township's sign ordinance. We agree it is a small distinction — but the sign represents political speech, even though it is not a political sign as defined by our ordinance," Beuke wrote. "Unless a sign of this type becomes a matter of public safety, we do not believe we can order it to be removed."
Complaints about the sign also include that it is an eyesore and that if it is not a political sign, it is a permanent sign which requires a permit.
Examples of other signs residents have posted in the municipality include ones in support of the police, Black Lives Matter, No White Guilt and No Room for Hate, Czjakowski said.
"There's all these types of signs that we've generally taken a bit of a hands-off approach to," Czajkowski said.
Board Chairman Doug Gifford said he doesn't think the township can regulate free speech but wants to have solicitor Jim Garrity advise the board on possible regulations of free speech signs.
"Maybe we can regulate size. God knows I don't want to get into regulating content," Gifford said. "That's a swirl down the drain."
Business owners sometimes put up signs that have the appearance of being allowed sign types, but are actually unpermitted additional advertising signs, he said.
"You always have problems with signs. It's an ongoing thing," Gifford said, "but I think we need to take a fresh look at it and this gives us an opportunity to do it."