Village of Butler — The United States Supreme Court has ruled that it is unconstitutional for local governments to regulate signs based on their content.
The villages of Butler and Sussex have revised their signage to fall into line with the recent ruling.
Sussex and Butler are two of 30 municipal clients of Eric Lawson’s law firm. The villages received a memo from the firm saying the Supreme Court, “rendered unconstitutional parts of almost all sign codes in the state of Wisconsin and possibly the entire country.”
Village of Sussex Administrator Jeremy Smith said the village has completely redone the sign code, and it will go through the village board for approval.
Smith said the ruling came as no surprise, but it presents a conflict in the law.
“The Supreme Court clarified what was often understood to be the rule anyway,” Smith said. “Many communities understood that the First Amendment applied to signage, but there is a conflict in the law. We have state laws with respect to election signage. So there’s a conflict between state law and election signage regulation, and now the federal law about how those are regulated. That’s something the state is going to have to work out.”
The signs you will see around the village of Sussex will not be significantly impacted, Smith said.
As for the village of Butler, Administrator Kayla Chadwick also said largely, the village’s code does not regulate based on content.
“We have a few sign requirements that regulate based on content, and those are primarily about real estate signage,” Chadwick said. “We’ll do a full legal review. We’ll go ahead through the plan commission process of changing the zoning code to reflect the requirements.”
One area where Butler was in violation was in the regulation of garage sale signs.
“You can regulate the placement of temporary signs as a whole, but not just because they say rummage sale,” Chadwick said.