CLEVELAND— On Friday, September 23, 2005, the ACLU of Ohio Foundation Inc. sent a letter to the Northfield Center Township Zoning Department demanding it halt its efforts to enforce local zoning laws against Trustee candidate Paul Buescher.
On September 9, 2005, Mr. Buescher received a letter from the Township’s Zoning Inspector, Donald A. Saunders. In the letter, Saunders warned Buescher that he is in violation of local zoning laws regarding the display of signs because Buescher has displayed two 18” x 18” signs advertising his candidacy on the doors of his Dodge Durango. In the same letter, Saunders explained that continued display of the signs may result in turning the matter over to the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office and potential fines of $500 a day.
A follow-up e-mail, dated September 19, 2005, from Saunders to Buescher claims the local zoning laws require Buescher to leave the magnetic signs “on the vehicle at all times” and instructs him that he “cannot place the vehicle in such a way that it would not normally be placed in a yard”.
Believing his First Amendment right to free speech was in jeopardy, Buescher opted to contact the ACLU of Ohio Foundation Inc., for assistance. In the ACLU of Ohio’s letter to Saunders, Volunteer Attorney Michael Honohan warns Saunders the Township has no more constitutional authority to regulate the signs on Buescher’s vehicle than they do to regulate bumper stickers on other residents’ cars.
“While many ordinances affecting the placement of political signage are problematic from a First Amendment standpoint, the Township’s efforts with respect to Mr. Buescher’s signs are patently absurd,” stated Honohan. “One would think the Township would have more pressing problems than policing when and how residents express their views on their cars and trucks,” added Honohan.