Review of Wilton’s sign regulations resurfaces

The topic of contentious sign regulations resurfaced during the Wilton Planning and Zoning Commission's Jan. 9 meeting.

During his report to the commission, Town Planner Bob Nerney brought up the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in the Arizona-based sign ordinance case of Reed v. Town of Gilbert.

“One of the opinions that really caught my eye was Justice [Samuel] Alito’s,” said Nerney. “He laid out some rational — things that he thought towns could continue to regulate.”

At a time when Wilton’s sign regulations are being looked at by town counsel, Nerney said, the case decision “kind of puts you in the mindset of what the Supreme Court had looked at.”

The issue of signage was looked at in Wilton about a year-and-a-half ago, said Nerney, and “was done more within the sparing of whether or not our regulations met the town’s needs, in terms of business needs and also public needs.”

“It was kind of an exercise that the commission went through and they felt that changes really were not warranted,” he said.

“Just at that was concluding, so did the decision on the U.S. Supreme Court case [and that] led the commission at the time to say, ‘Look, maybe we got to take a look at it in that light as well’ — so that’s kind of where we are today.”

When it comes to Wilton’s sign regulations, Nerney said, “there are really two issues.”

The first, he said, is compatibility with the Supreme Court’s decision in Reed v. Town of Gilbert, in which the court clarified when municipalities may impose content-based restrictions on signage and the level of constitutional scrutiny that should be applied to content-based restrictions on speech.

The second issue, Nerney said, comes down to whether or not the planning commission decides to get back into the issue of Wilton’s signage allowances to see “whether or not they’re adequate.”

When it comes to sign regulations in Wilton, Nerney said, he doesn’t think it’s “as bad as it seems.”

Although “there are certain things that we call out that we probably shouldn’t,” said Nerney, he doesn’t think the town is “that far out of compliance.”

Before making any decisions, Nerney suggested the planning commission wait to hear back from town counsel regarding Wilton’s sign regulations.

Planning and Zoning Chair Joe Fiteni agreed and asked his fellow commissioners to read up on the town’s sign regulations.

“We should all go through this,” said Fiteni. “We should all weigh in and hopefully get town counsel to give us their thoughts on this, and then [take it from there].”

The next Planning and Zoning Commission meeting is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 23, at 7:15 p.m., in Room A of the town hall annex.