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With elections looming, leaders enforce signage

July 26, 2011

Election season is right around the corner, and citizens can expect to see a plethora of campaign signs popping up in their area. Before you plant, or pull up, a wiry cardboard ad in your neighbor’s front yard, government leaders are reminding citizens of proper election signage.

This year, some municipal races will have up to eight candidates running for two or three elected positions. With large races, municipal leaders say the importance of signage rules becomes even more significant as candidates vie for a spot on the lawn as well as their government’s ruling body.

Specific rules for political signs differ from area to area, but no local government allows election signage in the public right of way, which is typically located between the sidewalk and the street. The strip of grass in-between the sidewalk and the street, for instance, is public right of way.

Other rules include:

In Newton

The city permits non-illuminated political signs that don’t exceed 32 square feet in area; however, the signs must be removed within two weeks of election day.

Signs cannot be attached to utility poles, trees or rocks. Placing a sign on a utility pole is a Class 3 misdemeanor, according to N.C. law. Also, signs cannot be placed on city-owned property, with the exception of polling places on the day of the elections.

For safety reasons, Newton’s Planning Department does not allow signs within the sight triangle at intersections. The sight triangle is measured from the intersection of the right of way at a distance of 25 feet.

Most of Newton’s regulations on political signage come back to public safety, said Glenn Pattishall, Newton’s planning director and assistant city manager.

“We have removed signs from intersections that have blocked the view of drivers and caused an issue with public safety,” Pattishall said, adding that the city does have the right to remove and dispose of any sign in violation at any time without notice.

Candidates and citizens do not need a zoning permit to display a political sign in a permitted area.

In Conover

Conover allows political signs no more than 30 days prior to the date of the election, which is Nov. 8 this year. Signs must be removed within seven days after the election.

Conover Planning Director Lance Hight said smaller yard signs can placed in legal areas without a zoning permit. A zoning permit is required for any sign larger than 4 square feet, Hight said.

“It’s to make sure that those larger signs are out of the right of way and not blocking the line of sight for cars,” Hight said. “It’s really a safety issue, and it gets hard for our crews to mow if there is a sign there.”

The zoning permit is free, and Hight said it only takes a few minutes to be processed.

In Conover, citizens can place signs anywhere that is not unsafe or will not impair driver’s sight.

“Every election brings a lot of signs – whether it’s a local election or not,” Hight said. “It’s just a standard procedure, and that’s just a way they use to get their name out there. We just try to keep it safe and not in the street right of way.”

In Claremont

The city allows individual signs that don’t exceed 16 square feet or six feet in height. Signs must be removed seven days after the election.

Claremont City Manager Doug Barrick said signs are allowed anywhere other than the public right of way.

If an individual does not comply with Claremont’s code, Barrick said the city sends the candidate a letter to let them know that “x-sign” is not in compliance with the code. They are also given 30 days to move the signs outside the right of way.

“For us, we try to stay out of it as best as we can and try and just to stay out of that political sign mess,” Barrick said. “For us this year, we have three incumbents running for three seats, and I don’t expect to see a lot of signs in town. I don’t see any reason for us to have any reason to be policing political signs.”

In Maiden

The town allows non-illuminated signs that do not exceed 16 square feet. Unlike other governments, the signs must be removed within 48 hours after the election.

Political signs shall not be located on public property, except at the polling places on the day of the election, or in any right of way, according to Maiden’s sign ordinance.

Signs that do not conform to the terms of this section may be removed and discarded by the zoning enforcement officer without notice, according to the town’s ordinance.

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