Officials provide guidance on placement of campaign signs

Published 6:02 am Wednesday, April 4, 2018

As election season kicks into gear, election signs are showing up around Boyle County. But when those signs are placed in the wrong place, they can create problems or even safety risks for drivers.

So far, all the campaign signs Planning and Zoning Director Steve Hunter has seen have been placed appropriately. But that may change the closer it gets to the primary election on May 22, he said.

“Yard signs tend to creep close to the right-of-way because they’re smaller in nature and people put them out by the sidewalk or closer to the road or the curb,” Hunter said.

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To help ensure signs are placed appropriately and problems are kept to a minimum, Hunter has assembled a one-page document detailing the local rules and regulations concerning temporary signs.

The highlights he hopes hit home include:

  •  Election campaign signs do not require permits and there are no size limitations; the major restrictions are when they can be up — from 60 days prior to an election until seven days after — and where they can be placed.
  •  Signs cannot be placed in any city, county or state right-of-way.
  •  Signs cannot be placed at intersections within “sight triangles” — the field of view drivers need to proceed safely.

Hunter said he’s heard there’s been problems in the past with the removal of campaign signs; he doesn’t plan on that happening again this year.

“I think the better way to do it is to call the party chairs and say, ‘hey, your candidate has a sign out too close to the road, wrong side of the sidewalk or whatever. And just advise the candidates as opposed to us picking up the signs,” he said, explaining that officials have the authority to remove improperly placed signs but he’s recommending against it. “It would be very labor-intensive, number one, and then number two, there would just be a perception issue we want to avoid during a hotly contested campaign year.”

Signs placed in state right-of-ways will be removed by Kentucky Transportation Cabinet crews, according to a news release from the state Highway Department District 7.

“As the election cycle draws near, campaign signs must be placed beyond right-of-way limits. Right-of-way fence is included with this restriction,” the release states. “For roads with a right-of-way fence, no signs may be attached. The restriction also includes signage for yard sales and real estate advertising. In addition, it is illegal to attach items such as flyers, posters, balloons or streamers to stop signs, highway markers or any other road sign or utility pole.”

Hunter’s handout similar notes local regulations prohibit all temporary signs — not just political ones — from including “streamers … pennants, ribbons, spinners, beacons, searchlights (or) promotional inflatables.”

According to the Transportation Cabinet, homeowners must keep yard signs behind their right-of-way line, even if they maintain their lawn to the pavement edge, and all signs should be placed behind sidewalks from the road.

“In areas without sidewalks, all signs should be behind the ditch line and outside areas commonly mowed or maintained by highway crews,” the cabinet release states.

“Often, utility poles will mark the edge of highway right-of-way. On four-lane highways with controlled access or limited access, no signs should be placed on the highway side of the fence line or the fence.”

Boyle County Republican Party Chair Tom Tye said Republican candidates have already put out a lot of signs and have many more to put out.

“We’ve been putting signs out like crazy,” he said. “… We’re trying to make a concerted effort to make people aware, particularly in the primary, that we have multiple candidates, particularly in the Republican Party, which for Boyle County is pretty unusual.”

Tye said the local party has contacted almost all of its primary candidates, letting them know the rules about posting signs from P&Z and the Transportation Cabinet, as well as some “rules of good taste.”

“If they are put in a state right-of-way, the transportation department has an issue with that, and I get it and I totally agree with it,” Tye said.

Boyle County Democratic Party Chair Richard Campbell said all the signs he’s seen up so far stay within the rules. He said you will usually see signs showing up in right-of-ways because people don’t understand the rules, especially if they mow the land where the sign is placed.

Campbell, a former Boyle County attorney, said, “When I ran, I always took pains to make sure I wasn’t in the state right-of-way.”

Campbell said the local Democratic Party shies away from advising candidates during the primary election, because none of the candidates are officially endorsed by the party yet. So the party hasn’t told candidates how to handle their sign placements. Once the primary is passed and the Democrats are chosen for the general election, the party will take a much more active role, he said.

According to the Transportation Cabinet, “illegally placed materials along roads can create additional hazards by blocking sight distance or distracting drivers, particularly at intersections. The illegal placement on utility poles presents additional obstacles and potential dangers for utility crew workers.”

Signs removed by Transportation Cabinet workers will be taken to the District 7 office and held for one month; any unclaimed items will be thrown away or recycled.

For questions about sign placement, you can contact District 7 at (859) 246-2355. Hunter said anyone who sees a sign placed improperly along a local roadway can call the P&Z office at (859) 238.1235.

“No one should pick up signs, including the planning commission (members),” he said.

Political sign placement rules

According to a one-page handout assembled by P&Z Director Steve Hunter:

  •  Political signs are “temporary signs, advocating a political candidate, political party or other ballot issue for an upcoming primary, general, runoff or special election” and are allowed without any permit, “provided no such sign partially or wholly obstructs traffic or other public safety signs.”
  •  Political signs “shall be placed no more than 60 days prior to the election and shall be removed within seven days following the election by the candidates, their campaign committees or other persons responsible for the posting of campaign material.”
  •  Signs are prohibited “in any state, city or county right-of-way.”
  •  Signs are prohibited that “(constitute) a traffic hazard or a detriment to public safety or may be confused with a traffic control signal or device or the light of an emergency or road equipment vehicle.”
  •  “Signs which make use of words, symbols, phrases or characters in such a manner as to interfere with, mislead or confuse traffic” are prohibited.
  •  Signs are prohibited in “any intersection sight triangle,” on utility poles, on trees and on fire escapes.
  •  “Mobile or portable signs, except A-frame or sandwich board signs” and “flashing signs, including the use of flashing on electronic message display signs” are prohibited.
  •  “Window signs visible from any public or private street or highway that (occupy) more than 25 percent of the window surface” are prohibited.
  •  Signs may not include “streamers, tag signs, posters, pennants, ribbons, spinners, beacons, searchlights” or “promotional inflatables.”
  •  “No sign is permitted in any easement without written consent from all applicable utility companies.”