CAMP HILL, Pa. (WHTM) — As the May 16 Primary Election grows closer every day, political campaign signs are going to start popping up all across the Commonwealth. But can communities tell residents how many signs they can have or how long they can display them?
Camp Hill in Cumberland County tried to place restrictions on political signs but lost in federal court. On Wednesday, April 12, Camp Hill voted to appeal that decision, which many residents say is a losing proposition.
Camp Hill specifically tried to limit how many political signs a yard could have and how long they could stay up.
“I think they want to violate our First Amendment right and they don’t understand how the Constitution works,” said Anita Burton, a Camp Hill resident of 12 years.
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A federal court ruled in favor of the residents who sued over the ordinance; The judge said signs could stay in yards with no limit on number or duration.
Now, the borough council is appealing the decision, arguing it must protect the “community’s beauty and enhance public safety by reducing clutter, distractions, and hazards.”
“I’m sad for the taxpayers of Camp Hill. I don’t think it’s fair and I don’t think it’s a good use of our money,” Burton added.
Attorney Marc Scaringi successfully argued against the ordinance in court and is a Camp Hill resident himself.
“It’s Constitutional Law 101. There’s a long history of case decisions talking about how special the advocacy is on one’s private residence through political yard signs,” Scaringi said.
Camp Hill’s solicitor argues they need to appeal for guidance from the court, stating, “The Borough needs direction to ensure that First Amendment rights are protected and balanced with other significant interests.”
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“I think it’s an improper purpose to appeal just to get an advisory opinion from an appellate court to help you rewrite your ordinance. That’s not the way our court system is supposed to work,” Scaringi added.
While some residents may be worried about too many signs being offensive or off-putting, Burton is not one of them.
“I have absolute faith in the Camp Hill residents for us to continue to do the right thing and that the borough will remain the charming little town that it is,” Burton said.
The Camp Hill solicitor also said the appeal is in response to a $300,000 bill in legal fees from Scaringi. If the borough can win the appeal they may also get off the hook for that money.
The borough also says its legal fees have been paid by insurance, not taxpayers.