Village Takes on Signs

East Hampton Village tends to get it right when it comes to aesthetics. The village once was dubbed America’s most beautiful village, and successive generations of elected officials have taken that honor to heart. In that spirit, and notwithstanding any claims to the contrary, the village board has proposed additional decorum on signs on private property — specifically those put up by real estate companies. If the law is enacted as proposed, real estate signs would be just a little larger than a page of this newspaper folded in half.
    The board is to consider the code change at an 11 a.m. hearing tomorrow that would limit on-premises real estate signs to one-and-a-half square feet; signs up to seven square feet are allowed now. The village has pointed out that similar laws are in place on Shelter Island and in Palm Beach and brokers in those places have learned to live with the restrictions. We would love to see this come to pass here, but there is one important caveat: The suggested code change is probably unconstitutional.
    Even though the U.S. Supreme Court has given real estate signs an exemption from outright bans, certain questions of fairness remain. For example, the village’s new law would limit the size of house-for-sale notices while allowing temporary construction company signs to continue to be as large as seven square feet. The village’s well-intentioned code change should be rewritten to withstand potential legal challenges — and be fair. This is a case where one size fits all is the only legal way to proceed.
    That’s the good news. The bad news is that you can forget about a similar restriction in East Hampton Town anytime soon. In the current political climate, code enforcers are not seeking compliance on obvious violations of elements of the sign code already on the books.
    We expect the village board to iron out the legal wrinkles in the proposed law. We doubt that the town board will follow the village’s lead, but maybe we’ll be surprised.