Signs, signs, everywhere are signs

Signs, signs, everywhere are signs Some temporary signs that often were found hugging curbs of streets in the city are now placed inside sidewalks on private property, thanks to a new policy approved by the Vermillion City Council. by David Lias More than just yellow dandelions are beginning to pop up in yards in Vermillion.

With a congressional and city election just a little more than a month away, campaign yard signs have begun to appear.

Citizens have begun to show their support for U.S. House candidates Stephanie Herseth and Larry Diedrich by displaying their signs in their front yards.

It's a sure bet that many more signs will begin appearing soon, as there is a city council election in each of the city's four wards also scheduled June 1.

Add all of those signs to those that appear under more normal circumstances, such as those advertising real estate and rummage sales, and yards can get downright cluttered.

The Vermillion City Council hopes to alleviate that problem, to a degree, with a new temporary sign policy.

It took over 30 minutes of discussion for aldermen to fine tune the new regulation to everyone's liking at its April 5 meeting.

The new policy is already making a difference, however.

It's been a habit for Vermillion citizens to place temporary signs in the rights-of-way along city streets � between the curb and the sidewalk.

The new policy prohibits that.

Street intersections are often popular places for citizens to advertise auctions or rummage sales.

Because they often interfere with motorists' vision, signs are no longer allowed at intersections.

Other components of the policy include:

Real estate signs. Such signs shall be permitted in all zoning districts, subject to the following limitations:

* Real estate signs located on a single residential lot shall be limited to one sign, not greater than 3 feet in height and 9 square feet in area.

* Real estate signs advertising the sale or lease of vacant commercial or industrial land shall be limited to one sign per street front and each sign shall be no greater than 10 feet in height and 100 square feet in area.

* Real estate signs shall be displayed whenever a property is for sale and shall be removed five days after the sale is closed.

The policy originally called for the signs to be removed one day after a property's sale is finalized.

Alderman Dan Christopherson suggested expanding the time to five days.

Special event signs. Signs advertising a special event, including but not limited to garage sales, athletic competitions and school-related functions, may be erected within 4 feet of the curb lines of any street or within any public way between the sidewalk and curb. Signs shall be permitted in all zoning districts, subject to the following limitations:

* Special event signs shall be free standing only. Attachments to light poles, street signs or traffic control or similar devices are not permitted.

* Special event signs shall be limited to not greater that 2 feet in height and 4 square feet in area.

* Such signs may be displayed three days before an event, and shall be removed within one day after an event. They can be displayed for a maximum of seven days.

Political signs. Political signs shall be permitted in all zoning districts, subject to the following limitations:

* Political signs shall not exceed a height of 4 feet nor an area of 32 square feet.

* Political signs may be displayed only for a period of 60 days preceding the election and shall be removed within five days after the election.

The policy was originally worded to allow political signs to remain in place 10 days after an election.

"I think 10 days is fairly long," Alderman Jack Powell said.

Alderman Tom Davies asked Farrel Christensen, the city's code enforcement officer, who would be responsible for political signs that are improperly displayed � the candidate or the property owner.

"It's very difficult sometimes to know who put up the signs," Christensen said. "I don't foresee a lot of fining.

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We've included in the enforcement part the removal of offending signs."

Fees for removal may be necessary in instances where citizens won't cooperate in removing large political signs that violate the policy.

"I guess the party that we would assume would be responsible would the people that placed the sign," Christensen said, "and we might have to do some work to find the right person to charge with any fees, if necessary."

Mayor Roger Kozak asked that caution be used in the enforcement of the political sign policy.

"I think we need to approach it so we don't start with a mode of fining," he said. "We should start with a mode of notification, because there are so many variables here that I think are beyond the control of the person or the party that would be dealing with this."

Alderman Drake Olson noted that the regulation may be too restrictive. Political signs, for example, are prohibited from rights-of-way, and must be displayed on a person's private property.

"If I want to have a sign in my yard that isn't in the right-of-way, I should be able to have it for any length of time that I want to because it is my property, as long as it doesn't obstruct any view," Olson said. "I just think the freedoms of the property owners are being obstructed on some of this policy for political yard signs."

"Temporary signs are just that � they are temporary," Christensen said. "I agree that we all want to support our candidates ? I think some times limitations would be appropriate."

Enforcement. The city code officer may order the removal or personally remove any sign in violation of this policy. Reasonable effort shall be made to notify the property owner but notice shall be required and a service fee may be assessed for removal.

The service shall be the cost of the removal but in no case shall the fee be less than $10 per sign.

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