• Avon’s ban on “living signs” leads to lawsuit

    February 11, 2013 No comments

    A dispute over “living signs” has resulted in a lawsuit against the town of Avon.

    In a story by Wade Coggeshall in the Hendricks County Flyer, he reports that Victor Ruthig owns two Liberty Tax franchises in Avon. Part of their business model involves using people dressed either as Uncle Sam or the Statue of Liberty standing outside the shop and waving to passers-by. Angela Walston, who manages the Liberty Tax at 8105 E. U.S. 36, estimates almost half of their business comes from these “wavers.”

    Ruthig has operated in Avon since 2006, originally at a location along State Road 267. Town officials would periodically inspect their wavers, but permit them as long as they stayed out of the right-of-way.

    In 2008, the town considered amending its zoning ordinance to include “living signs” that would effectively ban wavers such as Liberty Tax’s. They ultimately dropped the proposal.

    The issue remained dormant until last tax season. Ruthig says town officials threatened to fine him unless he stopped using his mascots.

    That summer, Ruthig moved his office from State Road 267 to its current location along Rockville Road. He filed a variance with the town for permission to use wavers at the new address. The Avon Board of Zoning Appeals denied it at its Oct. 18, 2012, meeting.

    The main reason cited was that such mascots cause a safety issue. Joe Smoker, Avon’s assistant planner, wouldn’t comment directly on this pending litigation but referred to his staff report to the BZA that recommended denying Liberty Tax’s variance.

    Ruthig asserts in the 10 years he’s owned Liberty Tax branches – including another two by busy Indianapolis intersections – his wavers have never caused an accident.

    As a result of the denied variance, Ruthig has filed a court petition against the town of Avon. He maintains the denial of his variance isn’t supported by substantial evidence, is arbitrary and capricious, and violates his First Amendment rights. He says the BZA has offered to hear his variance again, but he doesn’t see anything good coming from it.

    Posted by in Avon, Local News

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