The Halloween “Trump Wall” in West Hartford. Source: Hartford Courant.

Halloween is a time for ghouls, goblins, monsters, and . . . scary sign regulation problems.

An interesting Halloween tradition in West Hartford, Connecticut has taken on a political dimension in advance of the 2016 presidential election.  Matt Warschauer has constructed, as part of his home Halloween display, a “Trump Wall” in his yard, complete with statues of The Donald, Hillary Clinton, and plenty of orange and black accoutrement.

So, the question (for sign regulation geeks such as ourselves) comes to mind:  is the “Trump Wall” a sign?  The West Hartford code defines “sign” as “Any device for visual communication which is used for the purpose of bringing the subject thereof to the attention of the public, including the devices displayed within three feet behind windows and visible from outside of the building. Merchandise or facsimile merchandise shall not be considered a sign.”  Thus, it seems like the Trump Wall could be a sign.  And it seems almost certain that the Trump Wall is a noncommercial sign, since it does not appear to propose a commercial transaction.

The West Hartford sign code goes on to describe special regulations for “holiday decorations” as follows:  “Holiday decorations without commercial advertising” have no limits on maximum sign area, maximum number of signs, location on the property, and do not require a permit.  This provision bodes well for the Trump Wall.

But to avoid further questions about our mental state, we’ll refrain from comment on whether the West Hartford code is content neutral.  Happy Halloween!

Special thanks to Evan Seeman of Robinson & Cole for bringing this story to our attention.

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Photo of Brian J. Connolly Brian J. Connolly

Brian Connolly represents public- and private-sector clients in matters relating to zoning, planning, development entitlements and other complex regulatory issues.  Brian’s practice encompasses a broad range of land use matters including zoning compliance, rezonings and other regulatory amendments, planned-unit developments, development agreements, private…

Brian Connolly represents public- and private-sector clients in matters relating to zoning, planning, development entitlements and other complex regulatory issues.  Brian’s practice encompasses a broad range of land use matters including zoning compliance, rezonings and other regulatory amendments, planned-unit developments, development agreements, private covenants and restrictions, land use and zoning litigation, initiatives and referenda associated with land use approvals, and real estate transactions.  Brian additionally specializes in the First Amendment and land use issues associated with outdoor sign and advertising regulation, and fair housing matters in local planning and zoning.