Obscure, but convenient, laws and codes

obscure laws

Tuesday night’s council meeting yielded a mini-trove pf obscure, out-of-the blue laws that took most of the meeting participants aback.

The first was a reading of from the Borough Code concerning budgets and taxes; that section is on page 110.

A second was an explanation of why faith based organizations are not held to the same standards as other under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA).

Another obscure ordinance, in this case, that sometime may be adhered to for someone is the one that’s been overlooked for so long.

Not observed, nor adhered to, is this section of the Borough of Columbia’s Codes and Ordinances

§ 220-53 Prohibited signs. The following signs are prohibited in all zoning districts:

A.  Any moving object used to attract attention to a commercial use. Flags and banners except as is permitted by § 220-47 and except for flags or banners meeting the requirements for a particular type of sign.

B.  Flashing, blinking, twinkling, animated or moving signs of any type, except time and temperature signs may flash. In addition, flashing lights visible from a street shall not be used to attract attention to a business. This restriction specifically includes window signs, but does not prohibit Christmas lighting or displays, within § 220-47.


  1. So the church sign IS violating the local ordinance! Or are you saying they are allowed to violate every ordinance on the books because they are a church? That would be insane to even think that to be true.

  2. Agreed, it is insane! I just don’t see how a church in a historic district can be allowed to override every code that everyone else has to abide by just because they’re calling themselves a religious body. Not permitting a sign is in no way interfering with their ability to exercise their religious beliefs. This law certainly did not work for the Haitian church down the street.

    • Agreed, Sharon. Besides, in the Spy Facebook page ftr Peters said that his attorney and Jeffy worked it out but wasn’t specific about how that came to be. As far as I’m concerned, this was out of Jeffy’s spectrum of responsibility once council voted and should have been appealed by the applicant to the next court, which would have been Lancaster, I believe.

  3. If council votes publicly on a specific item and that decision changes down the road, why wouldn’t there have to be a public explanation for the change? Here’s the reason why, the public does not hold them accountable for this. Again, this borough does not take the Sunshine Act seriously.

  4. So I believe this section of Religious land use is what pertains to this case: No government shall impose or implement a land use regulation in a manner that treats a religious assembly or institution on less than equal terms with a nonreligious assembly or institution.
    That does not say they dont have to follow the rules, it says they can’t be given separate rules than nonreligious. So did they have the Solicitor review the act they said they were envoking to see if the original ruling was illegal? If so, I think we are entitled to hear the explanation. But what I think this comes down to, is the inconsistent enforcement of ordinaces on the books is now coming back to bite them. It is hard to get away with selective enforcement.

  5. It SHOULD BE HARD to get away with selective enforcement. Citizens have witnessed too many instances of selective enforcement, of selective non enforcement, though.

    We do not know whether the Church cited the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act or another obscure law, but we will ask for clarification.

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