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Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 4264 v. Steamboat Springs, City of

ELR Citation: 8 ELR 20391
Nos. No. 27587, 575 P.2d 835/(Colo., 02/21/1978)

The Colorado Supreme Court rejects all challenges to a municipal zoning ordinance which imposes appearance and placement controls on outdoor advertising and which requires the removal of signs extending more than three feet into public property within two years. The trial court's dismissal of the action for lack of standing was in error because an exception to the general standing rules exists where plaintiffs raise over-breadth questions under the First Amendment. The court, however, declines to remand the case for trial because it turns on legal rather than factual questions. Plaintiffs' claim that the ordinance is overbroad is insufficient to overcome the general presumption of validity to which zoning ordinances are entitled. To the extent that application of the ordinance may incidentally restrict First Amendment freedoms, this result is justified by the furtherance of the legitimate governmental objectives of promoting traffic safety and aesthetic values. Particularly because the intended viewers of outdoor advertising are essentially a "captive audience," the ordinance is reasonable and is a proper exercise of the police power. The language of the ordinance is not unduly vague, and the statute does not constitute a prior restraint because without advance control of such signs the statute's objectives would be virtually unachievable. The court also rebuffs plaintiffs' attack on a section of the ordinance which requires expedited removal of signs extending more than three feet into public property. This distinction is rational and infringes only minimally on the right of the public to engage in free speech in public places.

Counsel for Plaintiffs-Appellants
Mary Jane Simmons
Sharp, Black & Borden, P.C.
401 Lincoln Ave., Steamboat Springs CO 80477
(303) 879-1572

Counsel for Defendants-Appellees
Allen T. Ratcliffe Jr., Dean Link
Ratcliffe & Chamberlin
928 Lincoln Ave., P.O. Box 2088, Steamboat Springs CO 80477
(303) 879-3440