It was a full house, but the subject had to do with open houses.
Inside a City Council chamber packed with vocal but well-behaved
local Realtors, the council Tuesday directed staff to come back with
a report to the council on a changed city ordinance allowing
open-house signs to be posted on public rights of way. Those rights
of way include the corners of major streets with smaller residential
The council’s direction signaled a change of city policy on the
issue, and prompted new hope for Realtors who had been lobbying for
the change for more than a decade. City staff still expressed concern
over a change’s deference toward Realtors and liability issues. They
also reiterated the opinion that no compelling governmental interest
exists to change the ordinance.
But council members expressed cautious support for changed city
ordinance sections that for years prohibited any person from placing
“any movable or immovable object of any character whatsoever” on any
public sidewalk or parkway, with certain exceptions. Open-house signs
were not an exception.
“I think the compelling state interest is property values,”
Councilman Jef Van der Borght said.
Van der Borght said the signs promote business -- real estate
“I think our code needs amending to include real estate signs,”
said Councilwoman Marsha Ramos, who agreed that the compelling
governmental interest was economic.
She also said a public value exists in being able to direct
potential buyers to the homes.
Councilman Todd Campbell said he could support the change, but
wanted to see a survey on what kinds of ordinance other cities have
relating to the signs. He and City Atty. Dennis Barlow expressed
concern over the vulnerability of the city to court challenges,
perhaps on equal protection grounds.
But the Realtors and residents who spoke during an oral
communications period begged to differ.
They showed maps and examples of signs, showing how the current
ordinance prohibits Realtors from doing business. In one example,
they held up a crude example of a makeshift sign that would be the
only alternative to advertise if they could not post a proper sign.
“We strongly feel our signs are compelling state interests,” said
Shelley Rizzotti, a Realtor and board member of the association,
adding that 266 residents have signed a petition supporting the
Realtors added they would police themselves and asked that the
city closely regulate the signs. Those regulations include limiting
them to one sign per house per intersection and six signs per open
Code-enforcement officials said that if the ordinance is changed,
it should include amendments such as requiring a permit with fees to
cover costs of enforcement and establishing days and times when the
signs can be posted.
City Councilman Dave Golonski recused himself because he was
studying for a real-estate license, he said.