Sign in backyard is the subject of a legal fight in Neenah

Neenah sign battle
Published: Jan. 20, 2023 at 5:38 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

NEENAH, Wis. (WBAY) - The City of Neenah is hearing from residents - and attorneys - after demanding some families take down a particular yard sign.

The sign expresses opposition to the rezoning of an area around Shattuck Middle School and has become a the subject of a legal fight.

All of this came after the City of Neenah recently considered plans that involved a developer wanting to create apartments on the property. That idea triggered pushback from some concerned neighbors.

Local families put up a sign that’s one and a half feet tall and two feet wide. The city is demanding that the families take the sign down.

Dan Lennington, deputy counsel from the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, summarizes the situation: “When we explain the law to these cities, they usually go hire a professional attorney, outside counsel, who will tell them pretty quickly that we are correct, and it does need to be changed. And, it’s not entirely difficult to change an ordinance, but it’s something that needs to be done to protect everybody’s First Amendment rights. Everybody should have an expectation that they can put a sign in their yard and speak on a certain topic.”

The City of Neenah is represented by attorney David Rashid, who laid out his point of view in a written statement: ”The City is not violating anyone’s rights in regards to the sign ordinance or its enforcement. Municipalities may lawfully regulate signs in regards to time, manner, place, etc., so long as those regulations are content-neutral. That’s what Sec. 24-132(8) does.” He adds, also in writing, “The enforcement action was taken irrespective of the message of the signs.”

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) sent the city a letter with an ultimatum to change the ordinance by Tuesday.

Neenah City attorney David Rashid responded by saying that any further legal action taken by WILL would necessitate an “unfortunate waste of city’s already strained resources.”