Federal judge won't reconsider Cary's sign ordinance case

Staff writerApril 12, 2011 

STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

David Bowden, 67, had an orange sign emblazoned on his house to protest water damage that he blamed on roadwork by the town of Cary.

SHAWN ROCCO - SHAWN.ROCCO@NEWSOBSERVER.COM

— A federal judge has denied the town of Cary's request to reconsider a ruling that struck a part of its restrictive sign ordinance.

The town asked U.S. District Court Judge Louise Flanagan in February to amend her Jan. 19 ruling in which she determined that Cary's rules limiting signs on personal property violated resident David Bowden's First Amendment rights.

Bowden, who lives on Southwest Maynard Road, sued in 2009 after the town tried to fine him for painting "Screwed by the town of Cary" on the front of his house to protest a town road project.

In asking for a new ruling, attorneys representing the town submitted photographs of Christmas displays and a portion of the town's sign ordinance as new evidence.

But the judge rejected it outright in a terse ruling issued Thursday.

"None of the 'new evidence' is sufficient to cause the court to reevaluate its decision," the judge wrote. "Moreover ... the court discerns no clear error which would justify altering or amending its judgment."

The ruling forces Cary to decide in 30 days whether to appeal the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond, Va., an expensive proposition in a case whose costs already exceed $225,000.

In a recent interview, Mayor Harold Weinbrecht suggested the case held national implications for the ability of municipalities to regulate signs. "We are going to do everything we can to challenge this," said Weinbrecht, who wouldn't put a ceiling on the case's path.

john.frank@newsobserver.com or 919-460-2605

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