Local News

Cary asks judge to revisit sign ruling

Posted February 16, 2011

— Cary town officials asked a judge to revisit her ruling regarding a nearly two-year dispute with a local homeowner in a motion filed in U.S. District Court Wednesday.

District Judge Louise Flanagan ruled in December that the town violated David Bowden’s freedom of speech when it fined him for spray-painting on the front of his home at 305 Maynard Road the phrase “Screwed by the Town of Cary.”

Earlier this month, she ordered the town to pay $46,197.27 in fees.

Town officials said Bowden was in violation of an ordinance that specifies how and where signs can be displayed in the community.

But Flanagan ruled that the town’s rules were content-based because they don’t regulate holiday decorations or other things not commonly considered to be signs.

Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht said Wednesday that the ruling appeared to require the town to regulate holiday decorations by setting size, height and other limitations.

“I know our citizens don’t want us to do this, and surely, the First Amendment doesn’t mandate this,” he said.

The town says that Bowden could legally have his message on at least three different-sized signs but instead chose to write it on a 48-square-foot section of his house.

If Flanagan rules against the town, the case could be appealed to the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“We’re really hoping that she’ll take another look at the case,” Weinbrecht said. “The idea that local governments either regulate everything or are forced to regulate nothing can’t be what we’ve come to.”

Bowden has said he placed the phrase on the house after the town refused to buy it when water started leaking inside it as a result of a road-widening project.

Town officials have said they offered to fix the problem but that Bowden refused. The message is still painted the side of Bowden's house.


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  • Milkman Feb 17, 2011

    So, since the house was run down before the widening, then Cary can ignore that the widening greatly reduced the man's property value?

    I can't believe there's been no investigative reporting on the owners of other homes being town employees who have had houses bought up by the city. Shows that Cary knows how to keep the bad news out of the media, but still can't silence the guy with a can of spray paint.

  • cary1969 Feb 17, 2011

    RB-1 maybe you should heed you own advice and "Mind your own dang business"

  • PickAnotherID Feb 17, 2011

    I've been driving that stretch of Maynard for over 10 years, and that house had water damage long before the Maynard Rd widening project. This guys just using the widening project to get out from under a house no one wants to buy.

  • TheAdmiral Feb 17, 2011

    Sorry Cary -

    Your next step is to go to the Court of Appeals. You were found in violation of the dude's first amendment rights - now you have to pay.

    You don't want to - you have to Appeal - now that you waited more than 30 days - oh well. So sorry.

  • GroupOfPricklyPears Feb 17, 2011

    Is this another example of an incompetent, wasteful, indecent city government who serves itself rather than its citizens?

  • pulstar40 Feb 17, 2011

    Cary - Stop wasting my tax money. You lost, take it like an adult.

  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT Feb 17, 2011

    Again, why is everyone talking about Cary buying his home? That's not even on the table. The only issue is whether he can keep his painted sign. The courts aren't saying anything about Cary paying for his damaged home. Someone said, "Town of Cary, get over yourself." Actually, its most of these posters on GOLO that should get over themselves. Stay on topic with your posts. Talk about the sign, not buying the house. No court has said anything about buying the house.

  • tritonlm6 Feb 17, 2011

    Man I am sooooo glad I don't live in Cary anymore.

  • davidbh61255 Feb 17, 2011


  • LuvLivingInCary Feb 17, 2011

    if the house is so water damaged then the city should condem it for unsafe conditions. i'm sure the big sign on the house has ruined his property value so the city won't have much to pay him.