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Hey, Why Don't Politicians Pay for Their Signs?

Town Zoning Officer Joe Chapman explains why political signs are exempt from temporary sign permits and fees, and outlines what restrictions do exist.

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.

Political Signs

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."

QWERTY October 04, 2011 at 04:12 PM
"he will drive over" Who pays for the gas? If it's the town, then isn't it best to just leave the sign in violation?
Designated Hitter October 04, 2011 at 04:21 PM
If a person is running for a position that is on a volunteer basis, e.g., Board of Ed, signs should be free. If a person is running for a compensated position, e.g., first selectman, then signs should be paid for. Churches and schools should be exempt from paying, as they are always not for profit and are not treated the same way as a business enterprise, e.g., they don't pay taxes.
Rt25 October 04, 2011 at 05:14 PM
Another Monroe mess because no one talks to anyone. If the town chairs were sent notices from the Zoning officer regarding the town rules as it relates to political signs then how come this all happened? Do the town chairs not speak to their candidates? Come on already.
Sue October 04, 2011 at 05:45 PM
Actually, the zoning officer had the wrong email for the Dem. chair, Patty Ulatowski, so she never received the letter or the subsequent letter he sent. That's why the D signs were not placed 10 feet back. Mr. Chapman now has the correct email so this should not be a problem in the future. It just seems odd to me that this sign business is happening at all. I have lived in town for 35 years and there was never a rule on set-back for signs. They always went out 45 days before the election and were placed anywhere on a person''s property.
Sheila D October 04, 2011 at 06:50 PM
10 feet is also a little much to ask. As I drove up Cross Hill and down Moose Hill today, all the political and event signs were about 2 feet from the road. If they were to be 10 feet, they were in the middle of the homeowner's front yard (awwwkward-"Hey, can I put my sign in the middle of your front yard?"), behind a stone wall or landscaping, or in some cases, in a parking lot. How about 3 feet? Can we get an acceptable happy medium here?

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