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Signs, Signs Everywhere - But Are They Legal?

What are the dos and don'ts on posting a political sign?

 

With 19 candidates vying for the six city council seats in the upcoming Peachtree Corners elections on March 6, campaign signs are popping up everywhere.

Patch has received a number of emails from people asking what the rules are in posting signs so we did a little research and located the Gwinnett County sign ordinances.

In general, the county's sign ordinance (which the city of Peachtree Corners will operate under for the foreseeable future) regulates the size, quantity and location of signs and also prohibits certain types of signs and advertising such as signs in the street right-of-way, signs on utility poles and signs attached to traffic control devices.

There are several exemptions for political campaign signage:

Exempt Signs (Section 86-111)

1. One (1) sixteen (16) square foot sign per lot OR up to four (4) signs not to exceed four (4) square feet each per lot are allowed.

2.  These Exempt Signs shall not exceed: eight (8) feet above the street grade or three (3) feet above ground level, whichever is greater.

3.  These Exempt Signs must be located out of the right of way and at least ten (10) feet from the curb (or edge of pavement if no curbing exists) of the public street. Please note that signs placed in the street right-of-way and on utility poles are PROHIBITED and are subject to removal without notice to the sign owner.

4.  Exempt Signs cannot be banners (a Temporary Sign Permit is required for banners; see below).

5. Permission of the property owner is required.

6. A Sign Permit for Exempt Signs is NOT required.


Temporary Banner Signs (Section 86-109)

1.  One (1) banner per lot road frontage.

2.  Banners shall not exceed sixteen (16) square feet in area.

3.  Allowed for a maximum of 21 calendar days every three (3) months.

4.  A Temporary Sign Permit is required.


Prohibited Signs (Section 86-108)

The following is a short list of signs or advertising devices that are prohibited (please refer to Section 86-108 of the Sign Ordinance for other prohibited signs or devices):

1.  Signs in the street right-of-way (the right-of-way line is typically eleven (11) feet from the curb, or where no curb exists, eleven (11) feet from the edge of pavement).

2.  Signs on utility poles or other structures in the street right-of-way.

3.  Signs attached to traffic control devices such as “speed limit” or “stop” signs.

4.  Portable, trailer, curb or “A-type” signs.

5.  Streamers.


Please note that signs placed in the street right-of-way and on utility poles are PROHIBITED and are subject to removal without notice to the sign owner.


If you have further questions about the removal or enforcement of the signs, call the Quality of Life Unit at 770-417-3430 ext. 52.

For questions regarding the issuing of sign permits contact the Department of Planning & Development at 678-518-6010 i

Scott Ehrlich February 15, 2012 at 02:21 AM
Thanks for posting this, Judy. I wrote an article on this this afternoon discussing not just our current sign situation (which some candidates are clearly in violation of) but what I'd do to hopefully reduce this clutter of signs if elected. Of course, the challenge in any change to the laws (and even the laws that are on the books now) is that they impede on property rights and first amendment rights in favor of community rights. As much as I hate these political signs (and the fact that I have to put some out to counter others, although I would love it if we had a voluntary moratorium on all of them), I'm also hesitant to completely ban the ability for residents (especially those with no HOA) to advocate for candidates or issues on their own property as I feel that is overstepping the bounds of what we were elected to do. My plan and explanation is at http://peachtreecorners.patch.com/blog_posts/questions-answered-i-was-never-asked-what-are-your-feelings-on-the-gwinnett-sign-ordinance Thanks for posting this. Scott Ehrlich Candidate, Peachtree Corners City Council Post 3 770-559-0702 scott@choosescott.com www.choosescott.com
Robert J. Nebel February 15, 2012 at 02:04 PM
In a perfect world, it would be great to have sign guidelines, but who would enforce the rules? If ordinances are in place, are the ordinances a violation of free speech? I'm also wondering what those ordinances would look like with rules on placement, time limits and size. Even if rules are in place, there will still be a great deal of chicanery going on with sign sweeps as we see now. There was plenty of that going on back in the autumn as I observed: http://ow.ly/95gqj
David Leader February 15, 2012 at 04:33 PM
It can be very awkward. We actually received a notice that the county had cleaned up the signs that were in violation of city ordinance, and not to blame our opponents if signs that were in violation had dissapeared. You want to get the message out; and much as the patch readers are well-informed of candidates, this election will have an incredible number of voters who don't even care about the local elections (GOP convention / Sunday alcohol sales also appearing on the ticket). So you want to get signs out and in effective places, but with signs running $3-10 each, you don't want them "sweeped up". Things got ugly in the city / no city war, which I think is why people are being extra-careful to be civil here and not touch opposing signs. Hopefully once these elections are over April 3rd we can get the signs cleaned up quickly and get the city looking nice once again.
Scott Ehrlich February 15, 2012 at 04:49 PM
David, The problem is that someone in particular put their signs in places where everyone else's signs where just swept up over the last week, in addition to in medians, rights of way, lawns of businesses and residents that gave no permission, and on foreclosed homes. I think there is a difference between putting a sign in "no man's land" when 5 other candidates have theirs over there and putting one in front of a foreclosed home, the median of a road, or in the middle of someone's front lawn without someone's permission. The first can be based on ambiguity, but under the latter violations, there is no doubt that it is both unethical and against the law.
Scott Ehrlich February 15, 2012 at 04:58 PM
From a legal standpoint, cities have been given great latitude by the courts to enforce time, place, and manner on signage and other areas that you may see as a violation of free speech. If the ban or limitation doesn't take a particular viewpoint or only hinder a certain type of messaging, its been deemed constitutional. Not saying this is right or wrong, but there is already a sign ordinance in place (as Judy's article discusses above) that is already supposed to be enforced by whomever is handling code enforcement. As long as the city wasn't trying to silence a particular viewpoint and was trying to address a valid concern (I think you could make an argument for city beautification, maintaining property values, the costs of dealing with discarded signs), I have no doubt it would be upheld. The plan I wrote about in my article above was an attempt to reduce the clutter of signs while still allowing residents plenty of latitude to express themselves on their own property.
K Wade March 04, 2012 at 01:34 PM
Someone made a clean sweep up W Jones Bridge road taking all signs..including those you put out with the permission of the homeowners. If these are county rules, then I have to assume they have been on the books for a while. Why is it only now - when we have our own city elections - that there is suddenly the need for someone to take it upon themselves to try and enforce these rules? The big reason I voted no for the city. We are going to end up with leaders trying to govern like they are an H.O.A.
Scott Ehrlich March 04, 2012 at 05:53 PM
Kevin, saw your post. I know I had a sign on your yard and neighbor's with their permission. The yard next to those two had signs for two other candidates, including one of my opponents, also with the owner's permission. I believe I also saw a sign for a presidential candidate in your yard as well when I drove by on Thursday. I'm almost positive that all the signs by everyone were out of the right of way and on private property so they were all legal. That has nothing to do with the city and, unless they were somehow considered in the right of way and then removed them, it has nothing to do with the county either. So, if that is the case, whomever removed them is guilty of trespassing and vandalism. That's not enforcement of any rules, that's a crime and would have nothing to do with the sign laws or code enforcement or any of that.
K Wade March 05, 2012 at 12:21 AM
Then they vandalized all of W Jones Bridge. This wasn't someone who was supporting one candidate and getting rid of the signs of others, but someone who just wanted the signs gone. I understand that some may not like the seeing the signs everywhere, but personally, I kind of like it. This is a big election year nationwide and even more so for us locally. The signs showed me that there was interest out there. A lot of money and time was spent creating and distributing the signs. Sad to see someone take it on themselves to try and ruin the mood only a couple of days before the election.

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