Red and blue lawn signs for the 2011 municipal election are already popping up around town. Unlike other temporary signs for events such as tag sales, no permit — or $5 registration fee — is required. This has made some town residents wonder why political candidates are exempt.
"It can be considered a free speech issue," Zoning Enforcement Officer Joe Chapman said of political signs Monday. "It's essentially a once a year event. Political signs are exempt from certain restrictions and are not restricted by size or number."
Among some of the restrictions, Chapman said it has to be identifiable as a political sign, it may be up for 45 days before the election and must be taken down within seven days afterward. Often times winning politicians post signs thanking those who voted for them after the outcome has been decided.
Political signs may not be placed on public property such as the grounds at Monroe Town Hall nor on the Monroe and Stepney greens.
"They can be placed on a private property with the owner’s consent, at least 10 feet from the curb line," Chapman said.
As a rule of thumb, 10 feet from a road is considered the public right of way, according to Chapman.
The ZEO said the town instituted the $5 fee for other temporary to control the number and volume. "They were out of control before," Chapman said.
It should be noted that those fees only apply to off-site signs. For instance, if someone posts a tag sale sign in their yard, no registration nor fee is necessary. It is only for signs that are off-site.
Chapman said he sent a letter out to both the Republican and Democratic town committee chairs at around Sept. 22 informing them that political signs are exempt from permits, but letting them know about the town guidelines.
When there are violations, Chapman said he takes a photo to document it before removing the sign. About a week after his initial letter, the ZEO said he sent a second letter letting town political leaders know they can stop by his Town Hall office to pick up those signs right up to Election Day.
Most towns and cities have some guidelines in place for political signs, according to Chapman.
He said, "I would be hard pressed to find a community that doesn't have some guidelines on political signs."