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ACLU weighes in on Cary man's dispute with town

Posted August 5, 2009

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— The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union doesn't want the Town of Cary to enforce a fine on a Cary man, saying it would violate his First Amendment right.

David Bowden spray-painted a message on the front of his 305 SW Maynard Road home last Friday after becoming frustrated with the town over a drainage issue that, he says, has caused water damage to his house.

He said he wants the town to buy his house or pay to have it elevated or moved further back from the road.

Assistant Town Manager Mike Bajorek said the town has offered to fix the problem but that Bowden has refused the offer. A buyout is not on the table, Bajorek said earlier this week.

The town has cited Bowden for the message, saying he is in violation of an ordinance that bans certain types of residential signs. That could mean fines starting out at $100 for the first day, $250 for the second and $500 for each day afterward.

In a letter Tuesday to the town's attorney, ACLU legal director Katherine Lewis Parker says several provisions of the ordinance are unconstitutional "on their face and as applied to Mr. Bowden."

A spokeswoman for the town said Wednesday that attorneys are still reviewing the letter but that there has been no change to the situation

Although Bowden faces fines, spokeswoman Susan Moran reminded the media Tuesday evening that the town has yet to issue any, even though a 72-hour grace period had expired.


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  • TimInNC Aug 6, 2009

    Suncat...if you let them use your house yes it is. If they do it w/o your permission then it is vandalism and destruction of property.

  • suncat Aug 6, 2009

    So let me get this straight. If I put a neon orange spray paint messages on my house(or paint a mural of my interpretation of urban decay)this is a form of free speech, no matter how offensive it may be to my neighbors, and the ACLU will step in and protect my rights. I guess the same could be said if I let the neighborhood kids use my house for their graffiti. It's their right to freedom of speech and that is what this country is all about. After all, it is all about me and to heck with my neighbors and my community.

  • Milkman Aug 6, 2009

    I'm glad the ACLU is getting involved, I don't always agree with them, but here is a case where the whole Cary sign ordinance should be struck down as unconstitutional and then Cary will have to start over on that. It'll be awesome if a whole bunch of businesses put up signs while there's no ordinance in effect and then sue to be grandfathered in since the sign was legal when the new ordinance passed.

    Of course, since the ACLU was early on this one, sending the letter before the man had been actually cited, then Cary will be smart and not cite him. You can't overturn a law unless there's a conviction and appeal. (That's how there's still a radar detector law in Va.)

  • Nunya123 Aug 5, 2009

    Thanks gravypig for restating the facts of this "issue". Everyone is forgetting what started this. This guys family must be so proud of him.

  • Nunya123 Aug 5, 2009

    I hate when I hit enter before I'm finished commenting. :)

  • FoxtrotUniformCharlieKiloakaCALM Aug 5, 2009

    Funny that people hate the ACLU, there are far worse organizations out there, think NAACP at least the ACLU represents all American's rights, and not just one group that is basically the KKK but for blacks with fancy "Revs"

  • GravyPig Aug 5, 2009

    I drove by the house in question on my way home since he lives near me. If you look at the picture on the article, above the "s" in "screwed" is a gutter. the downspout is to the right of "screwed". The left end of that gutter next to the window is tilted down and collects water in the gutter to be spilled out and not funneled down the downspout. There is a 6" high curb in front of the house and there is no way extra run off from the street is making over that curb.

    I had sympathy for before I saw his out of shape gutters and found out that he wants Cary to fix his problem that has existed before the construction. Free speech? sure let him spray what he wants on his house. It'll never change the fact that he is a lousy homeowner and saw a way to get a free ride from the town.

  • TimInNC Aug 5, 2009

    and for those ill informed individuals out there who belive the ACLU never defends Christians and only want to destroy religion in America I highly recommend you check out the following link. It's truly eye opening. http://www.aclufightsforchristians.com/

  • RonnieR Aug 5, 2009

    The main problem is that carry is trying to regulate political speech with a sign ordinance. Political speech is protected,no matter what kinda heartburn the Town gets for being called a screwer.

  • TimInNC Aug 5, 2009

    I do so love the knee jerk, emphasis on the "jerk", reactions hating the ACLU. As for the comment by dmccall the man in question does indeed have the right to "stand on the corner and scream his opinion constantly". Isn't being an American a wonderful and precious thing?