Because they can doesn't mean they should - Pole Sign Prohibition Can't Pass the Regulatory "Straight Face" Test


June 13, 2005
By Carol Saviak, Executive Director, Coalition for Property Rights
The Brevard Insider
Malabar, Florida
To submit a Letter to the Editor:

This week, the Belle Isle City Council provided another example of the strong temptation and limited justification needed for elected officials to choose regulation over property rights.


For readers unfamiliar with the City of Belle Isle , it is an attractive, primarily residential community located in South Orange County . The municipal logo features a lazy sailboat, symbolizing the casual, laid-back lifestyle of its residents, many of whom live in comfortable, well-maintained lakefront and near-lakefront homes.


One of Belle Isle's major assets is its location and relatively convenient access to the Orlando International Airport and commercial business areas in South and Downtown Orlando.


The City of Belle Isle also houses a small number of commercial businesses on its outskirts, which recently became targets of the relentless march of government regulation.


At their meeting on June 7, 2005,  Belle Isle City leaders heard [second reading] a proposed ordinance, which begins:


"WHEREAS, the City Council of the City of Belle Isle has determined that in order to maintain, enhance and improve the beauty of the city, it is in the best interests of the public health, safety and welfare of the citizens of the City of Belle Isle that pole signs be prohibited within the City;"


Unless I have missed news coverage of a recent rash of accidents in Belle Isle -- wherein residents have been injured or killed by marauding pole signs -- it is an extraordinary stretch of intellect to try to claim that pole signs in any way affect the public health, safety and welfare of citizens.


While the proposed ordinance may seem unimportant and limited in impact, this type of unnecessary regulation deserves scrutiny. The prohibition of pole signs is a clear restriction on property rights and the freedom of businesses to market and communicate with customers. It limits their ability to employ public awareness and sales through the effective use of signage.


The proposed ordinance is in direct conflict with American values of economic freedom, which have brought prosperity and a good quality of life to the City of Belle Isle . At the public hearing, the Coalition for Property Rights asked city leaders to consider a few simple questions:


Is this ordinance necessary to the function of government? No.

Do you have any fact-based evidence that pole signs negatively affect the health, safety and welfare of citizens? No.

Do you have any fact-based evidence that pole signs negatively impact the real property values of adjacent properties? No.

Does this ordinance unnecessarily expand the reach of government? Yes.

Will the implementation of this ordinance create new or additional costs to the City of Belle Isle to enforce? Yes.

Will the imposition of this regulation improve the quality of life for Belle Isle residents? No.

Will the imposition of this regulation restrict the freedom of the businesses within the City of Belle Isle ? Yes.

Will the imposition of this regulation improve the property values of the property in the City of Belle Isle ? No.

Is it a dangerous precedent for government to impose regulations not designed to affect the health and safety of its citizenry, but for the sole purpose of making aesthetic determinations as to what the government views as pretty or pleasing? Yes.


Belle Isle's city leaders were also asked simply whether or not they could pass the "straight face" test while uttering, "This action is vital to the safety and security of Belle Isle residents."


CPR had notified a number of affected businesses. Several took the time to fax letters in opposition, and one long-term resident/owner testified at the public hearing. The opposition caused City leaders to pause. They voted to table the discussion of the ordinance, as proposed, in favor of going back to the drawing board to draft another version, which would apply to more limited areas.


While this regulation would have only affected a limited number of businesses in Belle Isle, the adoption of any piece of unnecessary regulation empowers all governments to continue to restrict property rights.


The debate over Belle Isle's business pole signs also demonstrates the importance of electing public officials who understand the importance of property rights and who have run viable businesses.


Property rights matter.


Successful businesses have real marketing needs and should be free to use signage, which effectively brings customers to their doors.


Local governments funded with our tax dollars should support both.


Reader responses welcomed!

Copyright 2005, The Brevard Insider.


The Brevard Insider is published 5 times a week except holidays at 1106 Ramblebrook Street, Malabar, Florida 32950. 321-956-0815. Fax: 321-956-8762. Publisher Pond Press, Inc.  Editor: Edward S. Clark. Assistant editor: Dan Warrensford. Contributing editors: Doug Doudney, J. D. Tucker, Michael Moehle, Bob Brewster, David Russell, Chuck Morley, Bill Love, Julie Kay Smithson, Carol Saviak. Contrarian: Robert D. Clark. Webmaster and Electronic distribution: Tim Wooley. Subscription price $6.50 per month.