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Suit against Fort Myers Beach over portable sign ordinance can proceed

Posted at 6:16 AM, Jun 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-30 17:51:30-04

FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. — An ordinance that bans the display of portable signage in the town of Fort Myers Beach may undergo further scrutiny after the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court's decision blocking an injunction.

Adam LaCroix wants to sue the town and two code compliance officers for enforcing the ban, which he claims violates his First Amendment rights to free speech. He was cited in 2020 after being identified as the "leader" of a group carrying portable signs promoting religious messages.

Though the citation was ultimately dismissed, LaCroix says he intends to carry such signs in the future.

The town enacted the ban "to reduce visual blight and increase traffic safety," according to court documents. The ordinance prohibits two dozen types of signage and requires permitting for others, but also allows for the exemption of 26 other types such as open house and garage sale signs from the permit process.

In the appellate court's decision, they stated the current reading of the town ordinance allows for "exceptions from the exceptions ... to carve out certain signs from the flat ban on portable signs if they intended to do so. But they did not."

The court highlighted the code's allowance of "sandwich-board signs," which are easily moveable but not considered 'portable' by the ordinance.

While described as "content-neutral" and not targeting any type of messaging, the Circuit Court opinion states the ban applies to all portable signs and "leaves the residents of Fort Myers Beach without an effective alternative channel of communication."

The reversal of the district court order means LaCroix can proceed with an injunction to fight the ban.