Know where to put your campaign sign

Robert Houk • Apr 18, 2018 at 12:00 AM

This election season finds campaign signs of all shapes and sizes dotting the landscape. That’s why local public works officials are reminding candidates and their supporters not to put those signs places where they shouldn’t be.

That includes the public right-of-way, where campaign signs can create a sight impairment for drivers and a nuisance for mowing crews.

Johnson City Public Works Director Phil Pindzola said he has seen a recent decline in the number of election signs popping up in places where they shouldn’t be. He said politicians and their supporters usually follow the rules, but some “still seem to be confused” when it comes to telling what is and isn’t a public right-of-way.

“If you keep them behind sidewalks and power poles, you are generally OK,” Pindzola said. “Most of the campaigns do a good job. It’s when they don’t ask for permission from private property owners that they get into trouble.”

He said the city’s code enforcement officials generally try to “give some leeway” to campaign signs. It’s only when their placement is a blatant violation of the rules that they are pulled up and carted to the city’s garage, where candidates can collect them. Signs that are not collected after a week or more are taken to the landfill.

Pindzola said candidates looking for a missing sign should call the city’s code enforcement office at 434-6047.

Johnson City is among a number of local towns and cities that have adopted strict ordinances to deal with signs of all types. Washington County also has a firm policy on the placement of campaign signs.

Washington County Road Superintendent John B. Deakins Jr. said his department sends a letter to all candidates on the ballot identifying where they can properly place their campaign signs.

“It’s pretty simple,” Deakins said. “If a sign is put on a county right-of-way where we mow, it will be pulled up.”

Deakins said signs removed from a right-of-way are taken to one of the county Highway Department’s four block zones where candidates can claim them.

Things to remember when placing campaign signs:

• Signs are not allowed on public property, such as at schools;

• Utility poles and sidewalks mark right-of-way boundaries. Signs placed between the sidewalk and street curb or between utility poles and street curbs will be removed;

• Signs may not be posted on controlled-access roads, such as Interstate 26 or State of Franklin Road; inside fenced boundary areas of roadways; or at intersections;

• Signs may not be posted on telephone, power or streetlight poles;

• Vehicles or trailers parked on a right-of-way for the primary purpose of displaying political signage are prohibited; and

• Signs are not allowed in medians between traffic lanes, such as the University Parkway median.

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