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Fairfax sign ordinance nullified

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Local,Virginia,Taylor Holland

A federal judge has signed a court order that nullifies a Fairfax County ordinance that limits the number of messages that can flash across an electronic sign located within county limits.

The ordinance, which previously limited electronic signs to two messages a day, had recently come under fire from residents after a Vienna-based church sued the county for restraining its free speech rights and placing a burden on its free exercise of religion.

A county letter to the Church of the Good Shepherd, located on Hunter Mill Road, cited three messages that had occurred in a one-day period: "WELCOME, Come on in and beat the heat...," "Also visit us at goodshepherdva.com" and "Practicing the Presence Thurs., July 5, 1 p.m."

Following the lawsuit, Sharon Bulova, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, asked county staff to "update and modernize" the sign ordinance.

"[The lawsuit] revealed the outdated nature of the ordinance as it relates to electronic signs and the use of changing messages," Bulova said.

The county has now agreed to review -- and likely update -- the ordinance and has rescinded the notice of violation to the church, as well as two other properties cited for similar violations.

tholland@washingtonexaminer.com

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