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Business in Greeley that lets any candidate put up yard signs outside now facing possible fines

CBS Denver 9/30/2022 Conor McCue

An anonymous complaint about political signs outside a business in Greeley is putting a new city ordinance to the test.

While catering for big events is their specialty, Corleone's in Greeley has become a drive-by political forum.

Republican or Democrat, school board or congressional candidate, owner Nick St. George turns no sign away from his highly visible property between Highway 34 and 23rd Avenue.

"None of these candidates pay me," St. George said. "I think it's fair for everybody to have the same advantage to be to put up the sign on a highly trafficked corner."

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George's tradition of allowing the signs has been going on 8 years now, and the rules for candidates are simple.

"As long as they come and ask, and secure their signs properly, and remove them as they're supposed to after the election," he said.

This year, three Republicans were the first to claim their spots, and for months there were no issues. That is, until two Democratic signs went up on his property about 2 weeks ago and someone anonymously filed a complaint with the City of Greeley.

"This last Tuesday the city showed up and said that we were in violation of the temporary sign permit," St. George said. "It appears that it is politically motivated."

The city has since said it's not a permit issue, but a violation of a new city code. For a property his size, St. George can only have 64 square feet of signage. Currently, he would surpass that limit with just two of the five signs on his property.

"It was merely a quantity issue, not a content issue at all," said Becky Safarik, Interim Community Development Director for City of Greeley.

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According to Safarik, Greeley City Council approved changes to the code last fall after the Supreme Court ruled signs can't be restricted due to content. Now, in Greeley, size is the only limit, and St. George has surpassed it.

"You can have any number that you want, so they can be small or large or any combination, but they just have to be under a certain quantity, so they don't overwhelm the site and detract from the permanent on-site signage," Safarik said. "What he could do to come into conformance is simply adjust the size of signs, so he can have all of those messages out there that he wants."

With the initial warning, St. George has a week to come into compliance before facing a $100 fine. For now, he plans to stand his ground.

"Why was it not a violation until the other two signs went up?" he asked. "We will be leaving them up and allowing them to cite us."

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