Less than two days after receiving intense negative publicity on its attempt to ban political signage from a private residence, Charlottesville City Hall has reversed course and withdrawn an issued citation.
Mr. and Mrs. Smith, of Rose Hill Drive, were threatened by Zoning Administrator, Read Brodhead, with “legal proceedings” and fines of up to $5,000 if they did not remove the disputed sign from their property. The story was first reported by The Schilling Show Blog and later picked up by Newsplex. In addition, the Rutherford Institute, a nationally renowned civil liberties organization, was preparing a First-Amendment-based legal defense of the Smith’s right to free expression.
The city, unable to justify selective enforcement of its own sign ordinance, relented by placing an unstamped letter of retraction (text copied below) in the Smith’s mailbox after normal mail-delivery hours.
Congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Smith for standing up against unjust government persecution, and shame on Zoning Administrator Brodhead and his department for their abuse of regulatory power.
October 4, 2011
Mr. and Mrs. Smith
Re: Rose Hill Drive
Dear Mr. & Mrs. Smith
The purpose of this letter is to inform you that I have reversed my decision on the legality of the sign that is in excess of one (1) square foot, located on your property. After further reviewing the sign ordinance, it is my belief that the code section referred to is erroneous and thus inapplicable to your sign. You may keep your sign and still be in compliance with the Zoning Ordinance.
I apologize for any inconvenience that my earlier letter may have caused you.