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Sign posting brings Hamburg code into question, situation goes to court

SIGNAGE BRINGS A RUCKUS — Scott Zawierucha posted this banner on the fence outside of his home, which faces South Park Avenue. The situation will go through court proceedings to determine whether or not the removal of this banner is a violation of Zawierucha’s First Amendment rights. Photo by Alicia Greco.
HAMBURG — Scott Zawierucha recently posted a banner to his fence, which faces South Park Avenue in Hamburg, in response to the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act.

The sign reads, “NY is not S.A.F.E.!! Stop Cuomo – Preserve your rights!!”

The town of Hamburg is now deciding whether or not Zawierucha’s sign falls in line with the code of the town of Hamburg, or if the resident has the right to display the sign, given his First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

According to Town Supervisor Steven Walters, the sign would have come to the town’s attention regardless of its contents, but “it happens to be a hot political issue, right now.”

The sign refers to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s passing of the NY SAFE Act, which put limits on gun ownership.

According to Walters, Hamburg’s Supervising Code Enforcement Officer Kurt Allen has spoken to Zawierucha’s attorney, James Ostrowski, about ways to resolve this matter before it goes through a full court proceeding.

“Kurt did inform them that we have been looking and we’re continuing to work on reforming some of our sign codes,” Walters said. “There is an ordinance on the town’s books that says you cant put a sign on the backside of your fence ... and that’s what that issue is, here.”

According to the town supervisor, the code includes language that states that a sign cannot face a neighbor. The backside of Zawierucha’s home sits on South Park Avenue, and that sign faces a neighbor across the main street.

“It’s questionable whether it’s adjacent to a neighbor,” Walters said.

As legal matters persist, the town court will explore the gray area between the sign and the legality of the situation, and will determine whether or not the code is unconstitutional, given the First Amendment.

The issue is currently tied up in court. Both of Hamburg’s justices have recused themselves from this matter; Zawierucha’s legal battle will be assigned to a court outside the town of Hamburg.

“My hope is that this matter can get resolved outside of the courts,” Walters said.

“Both my office and the town board has a limited ability to involve ourselves in this matter. We cannot, as a town board, as town officials, interfere with a court process.”

As the process continues, a trial will be followed by a verdict that will determine whether or not Zawierucha has been in violation of a valid town code.

The sign is currently still on display. Zawierucha has denied requests for comment by The Sun, for the time being.

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