Robins Looks To Classify "Personal Opinion Signs"

ROBINS, Iowa - For years, David Haupt of Robins has offered his political opinion to anyone driving by. It's an opinion on a homemade sign but one that thousands of drivers along I-380 see. Haupt owns property that extends from his house west along the interstate, just south of the County Home Road exit.

Two current signs read: "GOD BLESS MEDICAL WORKERS" and "FREEDOM OF SPEECH". Yet many of his previous signs criticize President Obama, such as "NObama" and other opinions.

For years, Patricia Nightingale has seen Haupt's political opinions as she walks in her driveway. Nightingale lives across I-380 in an unincorporated part of Linn County, not even in Robins. Yet she is the neighbor most directly affected by Haupt's signs. While a driver on I-380 may see his message for five seconds, Nightingale sees it whenever looking east from her yard.

"There is a limit to freedom of speech and, I'm sorry, but people need to realize this and you can't be infringing upon everyone else's rights, either," said Nightingale.

Both Haupt and Nightingale voiced their opinions on Thursday night in front of the Robins Planning and Zoning Commission. The discourse was very civil as Haupt and his attorney spoke on the freedom of speech issue and that Robins does not have specific language, currently, in place to address political or personal opinions. Nightingale said she recognizes Haupt's right to freedom of speech but that his signs infringe upon her privacy from across the highway.

Where the legal issue comes in is that the city of Robins does not have any language specific to political or personal opinion signs on the books, specifically to a sign's maximum size.

Zoning Administrator Dean Helander said current signage maximum size laws state a sign cannot be larger than 12 square feet on agricultural land, as Helander said Haupt's property is zoned as. The proposed "personal signage ordinance" would set a maximum of 240 square feet for any personal or political speech.

Haupt said his two current signs are eight feet by eight feet each, meaning the two 64-square foot signs, even combined, would fall well within the proposed 240-square foot maximum.

The next action is for the Robins City Council to consider the personal signage ordinance at the next meeting, scheduled for Monday, July 15th.
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