Driving through a busy intersection in the city on any given sunny Saturday in the summer, an overabundance of signs may be seen on the street corner.
Or, if a city code enforcement officer has already been through the intersection, the signs may already be gone.
According to Steve Centi, director of development for the city, excessive signs pose a variety of hazards. Additionally, it violates city code.
Several illegally placed signs can be found at the corner of Foote and Cole avenues and risk being picked up by one of the city’s code enforcement officers.
P-J photo by Liz Skoczylas
"We will take signs when they are violating the city code. Signs are not allowed to be placed in the city terrace, which is city property," Centi said.
Often, signs advertising garage sales, events or businesses are placed on the area between the curb and the sidewalk, which is city property. Although they do not spend time specifically looking for signs, code enforcement officers are instructed to remove them if they see them.
"If they are in the right-of-way, our guys are going to pick them up when they see them. We aren't sending somebody out on a weekend to sweep and paying them overtime to go pick up as many signs as they can," Centi said.
"Our guys are administrators of city ordinances and city code," Centi continued. "It's in the city code, so I'd say give these guys a break. They're not doing it out of spite, they're doing it because there are problems associated with it."
There are several problems associated with excessive signs, the first being a safety hazard for people driving. Centi said the signs could become dangerous when people are no longer focusing on the road.
"All of a sudden, there are confronted with all these signs that are right in the terrace. In some instances, depending on the size of (the signs) they serve to block line of sight. Most of them aren't tall enough to do that, but last week we found one that was four by eight feet. It was blocking the sidewalk," Centi said.
Aside from a safety issue, there is an aesthetic issue when signs begin to clutter street corners. When people take care to ensure the terrace in front of their property is kept up, Centi said, the city often receives complaints about signs being placed there. When a complaint is made, the city is obligated to work to resolve the issue.
"When somebody has a piece of property and somebody else comes and decides that they want to put a bunch of signs in this area, which is technically city property but in front of someone's house, we get complaints from people," Centi said.
It is also illegal to place signs on utility poles. Staples and nails holding signs in place on a utility pole are potential cause of injury for workers.
Professionally made signs are kept at city hall for the owners to retrieve, but often handmade signs advertising garage sales are tossed.
"In most cases, if they are professionally made signs, we will hold the signs here. If the person has a professional sign, we give them the courtesy of a call. It's kind of an educational experience for them," Centi said.
Although the city typically does not pursue it, owners could be fined up to $250 per sign they city removes from a property. Instead of receiving a fine, owners receive an education on the hazards of the signs.
"People just need to understand that they can't put them on utility poles, they can't put them in the city's right of way. But, they can put them on private property any time that they want to. It would be nice if they would do that," Centi said.
Centi suggested relieving the frustration of sign owners and city workers by placing signs on private property. Securing permission from the property owner to place a sign legally would eradicate many of the issues.
"The truth of the matter is that (we can take down signs). I think that the word needs to get out to people that the terrace is not an area to put these signs," Centi said. "If you are advertising an event, we have no problem with them being on private property. Moving it five feet over, on the other side of the sidewalk, and maybe securing the permission of the person whose property you are putting it on, might be a quick solution to this."