Fairfax County Moving to Loosen Sign Regulations
After a lawsuit in August, supervisors weighed options on Tuesday.
Officials are moving closer to loosening restrictions on electronic signs in Fairfax County.
The Board of Supervisors discussed ways it could update and modernize the county’s electronic sign ordinance during a committee meeting Tuesday.
The ordinance limits the number of messages legally allowed to flash across an electronic sign to three in any given 24 hours.
But the rule came under fire in August, when Church of the Good Shepherd in Vienna filed a lawsuit against the county, claiming the ordinance violated its free speech and freedom of religion rights.
On July 3, the church displayed three messages, according to the county's citation: "WELCOME, come on in and beat the heat ..., Also visit us at goodshepherdva.com, Practicing the Presence Thurs., July 5 1 p.m."
Use of the signs is growing, officials said. They're popular among banks and churches and are easy to program and use. Current sign regulations prohibit moving copy, requiring static messages that can change no more than twice every 24 hours.
Officials said the regulations were in place mainly for the safety of drivers who might get distracted. They also implied that too many of the signs going down one particular street could look tacky and undesirable.
Supervisors weighed the idea of allowing more messages to flash on the signs per day. Officials also recommended supervisors consider allowing images with some limited movement, such as scrolling but restrict video. The signs brightness could also be regulated, they said.
Some supervisors were steadfast in their distaste for the signs, including Penny Gross (D-Mason), who called them “garish.”
“I find these to be just awful,” she said, adding that she had gotten complaints from constituents. “Sometimes you can’t tell if it’s day or night because of these flashing signs.”
Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville) agreed with Gross.
“I think we should be as strict as we possibly can be,” he said.
But Board Chairman Sharon Bulova said the county would have to be more flexible and regulate the signs reasonably.
“They’re all over the place,” she said. “If we tried to make them illegal we’d have an awful time.”