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Virginia Politics
Posted at 05:55 PM ET, 09/17/2012

Fairfax does away with electronic sign rule that sparked lawsuit

A federal judge has signed off on an agreement that effectively does away with a Fairfax County zoning rule that limited electronic signs to two messages a day.

The order comes a month after the Church of the Good Shepherd in Vienna filed a lawsuit against Fairfax over the limit. The Methodist church argued that the policy was arbitrary and violated its First Amendment right to free speech.

The county initially stood by the limit but backed down after media reports.
The sign is seen in front of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Vienna, Va., on Aug. 28. (Tracy A. Woodward - THE WASHINGTON POST)

The order, filed Sept. 12, says the county has agreed to abolish the limit and undertake a review of all of its rules related to lighted signs.

“Obviously it’s a win for us, but it’s a win for the entire county, too,” said the church’s lawyer, Michael York.

At the heart of the issue was a zoning ordinance that bans electronic signs that use flashing lights or moving text. The county defined moving text as changing a sign’s message more than twice in one day.

The court order says that moving text remains prohibited but that moving “shall not be construed to mean changing but static text or copy.”

The church, on Hunter Mill Road, installed the electronic sign at the beginning of June, replacing one whose lettering had to be changed manually. In July, the congregation received a letter from a zoning investigator saying he had observed three messages on the sign in a 24-hour period — a violation.

One message offered neighbors refuge from the heat after the June derecho. Another promoted the church’s Web site, and the third listed the time of a group prayer meeting.

By  |  05:55 PM ET, 09/17/2012

 
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