Wendell enforces state rules for election signs after 2010 revision

mhankerson@newsobserver.comOctober 7, 2013 

MECHELLE HANKERSON — mhankerson@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

— Before candidates’ political signs from this week’s elections can be uprooted, signs for the November election will start going up.

However, state and town regulations limit the number of signs that can be posted, where they can be posted and for how long.

Most towns follow the standards set forth by the state. In 2011, a bill was passed to establish clear rules about where campaign signs can go and for how long.

Current sign ordinances make sure there’s no repeat of Wendell’s 2009 election season. It wasn’t unusual for Wendell residents to see several signs for candidates for local offices on a small piece of land. Some signs were stacked three high. Sometimes, even those extra-high signs shared space.

The next spring, Wendell’s Unified Development Ordinance committee addressed the issue, creating rules for how, when and where political signs can be displayed.

David Bergmark of Wendell’s planning department said Wendell’s signage policy was fairly relaxed but had to be tightened up in 2011 when the state passed the law addressing campaign signs.

In North Carolina, signs have to be at least 3 feet from the edge of the road, can’t obscure a driver’s visibility, can’t be higher than 42 inches above the ground, can’t be larger than 864 square inches and can’t replace or obscure other signs.

Political signs can go up 30 days before one-stop voting and must come down 10 days after the election.

State law also allows municipalities to determine their own sign policies for roads they maintain.

In Wendell, temporary political signs can go up without notifying the town. For other signs, both temporary and permanent, residents must apply for a permit and pay a small fee to display signs. Wendell allows churches to display signs for free so most community and civic events can post signs without charge.

Temporary signs in Wendell used to cost $10. Starting last July, the fee increased to $20.

From April to June, when sign permits cost $10, Wendell issued 17 permits and collected $70. From July to September 2013, when the fee was increased to $20, the town issued 10 permits and collected $90. Not all payments for the permits have been received.

In Wendell, signs that are more than 15 feet from roads do not have the same size limitation as long as they don’t obstruct someone’s view. Those signs, however, are subject to North Carolina building code and may require a building permit.

Wendell also lays out specific rules about signs at polling places. Signs can’t be larger than 6 square feet and they can’t go up more than 24 hours before the election. The signs must also come down within 24 hours of the end of the election.

In Zebulon and Knightdale, the towns abide closely to what the state requires. In Knightdale, the town doesn’t allow signs on any utility poles, but it lists no other extra restrictions on political signs.

Hankerson: 919-829-4826; Twitter: @easternwakenews

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