MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The tranquil beauty of the Central Gardens neighborhood in Memphis is what draws residents to the National Historic District, but this election season, some residents found possible costs to keeping that beauty.
The Central Gardens Neighborhood Association recently updated its architectural design guidelines, which specify that houses must limit temporary yard signs, like political signs, to one sign per yard.
With many local elections just around the corner and the presidential election about a year away, some Central Gardens residents worried that their freedom of speech was being taken away.
“At a time where getting people engaged in the political process is something that we need to encourage more of, it seems to try to put a limit on that,” Central Gardens resident Laroyn Bakker said. “It could be interpreted as a limit of freedom of speech.”
Bakker had not heard of the neighborhood guideline and had two sign in his yard when he spoke to WREG. He did not have any immediate plans to remove either sign.
President of the neighborhood association board Mark Fleischer wanted to assure residents, however, that the guidelines are meant to keep yard signs from impeding on the natural beauty of the neighborhood, and the guidelines do not even specifically target “political” signs, just any temporary sign.
“Please understand that no one is interested in guidelines that would hinder our individual rights as citizens to exercise our rights and opinions,” Fleischer said in a released statement from the neighborhood association.
Below are the architectural guidelines for detached or freestanding signs in residential areas of Central Gardens.
- These signs shall be temporary
- A detached sign shall not be larger than 12 square
- There shall be no more than 1 sign per lot.
- The maximum height of the sign shall be three feet.
- There shall be no illumination allowed on a detached
or freestanding sign.
- Portable signs shall not be allowed.
The guidelines also limit the size of signs in residents’ yards, as well as other stylistic limitations.
“Temporary signage guidelines were added as well, with limitations for size (no one wants front lawns to be a place for billboards) and number,” Fleischer said. “The committee working on the revised guidelines had much debate with regard to a sometimes overabundance of campaign signage and more, with other blight-contributing signage that remain on front lawns long after their usefulness.”
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Because the rule is just a neighborhood guideline, residents were confused how it would be enforced. Fleischer said as long as residents do not go over-the-top with signs and remove their signs after the election, there is no problem.
“No one out there is acting as ‘sign police,'” Fleischer said. “Unless we or the neighborhood see lawn signage that is completely out of bounds in terms of respect for the neighborhood, no one is going to be policing the number of election campaign signs on a lawn.”
Fleischer said he hopes these guidelines remind residents to have “good manners” with their election signs and show respect for their neighborhood and neighbors.