WILLIAMSPORT — The dispute between a Centre County municipality and a sign business and religious organization is continuing in federal court.
Nittany Outdoor Advertising and Stephanas Ministries contend in an amended complaint filed Tuesday in U.S. Middle District Court that certain provisions of the College Township sign ordinance are unconstitutional.
They claim the ordinance it is too broad, it suppresses noncommercial speech and gives the township unfettered discretion to license speech.
The plaintiffs, which want approval to put up five outdoor signs, contend it does not provide guidance to the Zoning Hearing Board on variance and appeal procedures.
After the original complaint was filed April 11, the township began the process of amending the ordinance.
The amended complaint was filed prior to a ruling from Judge Christopher C. Conner on a township motion to dismiss the original one. The township argued that Nittany and Stephanas didn’t exhaust their appeals at the local level before filing the lawsuit.
The legal battles follow the township zoning officer’s denial of three sign applications for not complying with the ordinance. Two additional applications were filed — and rejected — in June.
The township claims the plaintiffs were told the ruling on the first applications could be appealed to the Zoning Hearing Board but the plaintiffs failed to do so within the required 30-day period.
The township also disputes the plaintiffs’ contention the township is underserved in outdoor signs, noting it has more than 17 of them. Stephanas is a charitable and religious service organization that funds other groups including Dayspring International, which does missionary work in India.
According to the original complaint, owners of three properties along East College Avenue authorized Nittany to seek approval for signs that would promote causes supported by Stephanas, including Dayspring.
Along with a ruling that the ordinance is unconstitutional, the amended complaint seeks an injunction to prevent enforcement of the ordinance, an order allowing the signs to be erected and unspecified damages.