Letters Will Ask for Removal of 'Don't Change Ocean City' Signs
City Council also suggests a wider look at the municipal ordinance governing signs.
City employees are removing "Don't Change Ocean City" signs from public land, and letters to private property owners displaying the signs will go out early next week, Business Administrator Mike Dattilo said in comments at a City Council meeting on Thursday.
The letters will ask citizens to voluntarily comply with a municipal ordinance that prohibits the display of such signs.
The small signs around town are staked into front lawns and read "DON'T Change Ocean City" with the universal ban symbol crossing out a bottle. The signs are being distributed by the Ocean City Tabernacle, the Christian ministry created by Ocean City's founders.
The signs are a response to a petition drive organized by a group of restaurant owners calling for a public vote on changing the ordinance that prohibits "Bring Your Own Bottle" restaurants on the island. Through deed restrictions and laws, Ocean City has banned the sale and public consumption of alcohol since its founding in the 19th century.
Ocean City's sign ordinance appears to prohibit any sign other than a real estate, commercial or temporary political sign. The relevant sections of ordinance (4-39.5 ) include the following:
"Except as to the provisions for real estate signs in subsection 4-39.4 above, no signs shall be placed on land, or a building, except for the purpose of identifying a use or uses actually conducted upon the premises upon which signs are erected ...
... Temporary political signs shall be permitted to be placed upon private property for a period of thirty (30) days prior to an election. The signs shall be removed within five (5) calendar days of the election. Each political sign in residential zones shall not exceed three (3) square feet in area, per side. Political signs may be double sided. Political signs in nonresidential zones shall not exceed twenty-four (24) square feet in area."
City Council members agreed to begin a "wider look" at the ordinance to see if it remains appropriate and if it restricts rights to free speech.