CARY — The town of Cary will appeal a federal judges ruling that its sign ordinance restricted a residents free speech, despite concerns about the case's escalating cost, council members said.
Its one of those hold your nose situations, said council member Don Frantz. Weve got to. This has huge implications for the towns sign ordinance.
A federal judge ruled in January that the towns ordinance limiting signs on personal property violated resident David Bowden's First Amendment rights.
The case now moves to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond, Va., and if it fails again, the U.S. Supreme Court.
Frantz said the town council directed Carys attorneys to challenge the decision during the closed-door portion of Thursdays meeting. Mayor Harold Weinbrecht announced the decision on his blog.
Bowden, who lives on Southwest Maynard Road, sued Cary in 2009 when the town tried to fine him for a neon orange message Screwed by the town of Cary painted on the front of his house.
Bowden was protesting water runoff from a town road project that he believes damaged his home.
U.S. District Court Judge Louise Flanagan determined that the towns sign rules for personal property amounted to a content-based restriction on speech, meaning Carys enforcement was contingent on the signs message.
Frantz contends the town did not want to restrict Bowdens speech but how he displayed it. We dont let people in Cary graffiti the side of their house, he said. This is a blight on our community.
The judges order did not strike the entire ordinance but instead prohibited the town from fining Bowden. Town officials argue that the decision opened the Carys rules to more legal challenges.
After the initial ruling, Carys legal bills totaled more than $225,000, including about $46,000 the judge ordered the town pay Bowden for his legal fees.
The price tag is expected to rise with the appeal.
Frantz said cost factored into the councils decision to appeal but didnt outweigh the importance of the case.
We darn sure dont want to spend much more money on this, but its darn bigger than the David Bowden issue, he said.
He said council members asked staff to spend as little as possible but no cost estimate was provided to council members.
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