Marin IJ

Article Last Updated: 12/20/2005 07:32 AM

Town, lawyer settle sign dispute

Joe Wolfcale
Marin Independent Journal

San Anselmo officials and lawyer Ford Greene have settled a two-year dispute about his controversial "freedom" sign on his building at 711 Sir Francis Drake Blvd.
Three days after tempers flared in council chambers last week, Greene received a phone call from Town Attorney Hadden Roth, calling for an immediate lunch meeting to discuss a settlement.

It was signed Friday by Roth. Greene also has signed it. In it, Greene agreed to limit the aggregate signage on his building to 56 square feet, among other conditions, including:

- The maximum height of the changeable copy sign on the side of his building is 20 feet from the ground.

- The town will pay Greene $944 as reimbursement for the variance application he sought and other town expenses related to the sign issue.

- Greene will indemnify the town from any personal injury or property damage related to the sign.

- Greene will drop his federal lawsuit against the town, including all claims for attorney's fees and costs.

Neither side accepted any liability in connection with the sign controversy.

"We're happy to have been able to put this matter behind us," Town Administrator Debbie Stutsman said after a closed session council meeting on the matter Monday. "We need to move forward as a community to resolve the financial crisis ahead of us."

The agreement ends more than two years of sparring at council meetings. Greene has had at least three meetings in the past coupleof months with town officials to reach a pact.

Greene sought an apology from officials after police pulled down a political banner that supported a friend running for Fairfax Town Council. Greene sued the town in 2003, saying his free speech rights were violated.

As part of the agreement, the town issued a statement saying it was pleased to settle the dispute.

A portion of the statement read: "We regret that the removal of a large political sign related to an election precipitated your lawsuit and the protracted conflict over signage É The town respects its citizens and wants to ensure that each person has the opportunity for due process and equal protection under the law. The town also has the greatest respect for the constitutionally guaranteed right of free speech."

Greene, who failed to win a seat on the Town Council Nov. 8, was seeking fees and reimbursement of $840 he spent on a variance application.

"This settlement is my Christmas gift to the town of San Anselmo," Greene said. "I'm happy to disprove the adage you can't fight City Hall, but it sure helps to be an attorney.

"Unfortunately, ordinary citizens lack such advantage upon which town authorities seem to count in the way they respond to - and often ignore - citizens' concerns and complaints."

In this photo taken Sept. 29, San Anselmo lawyer Ford Greene's new sign along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard creates a controversy in San Anselmo. (IJ photo/Alan Dep)

Hub Law Offices 711 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, San Anselmo, California 94960-1949 415-258-0360