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Building official explains rules for political signage

With qualifying for the November elections now completed, campaign season is almost here. With campaign season come hordes of political signs, and City of Minden Building Official Brent Cooley said he is available to help ensure candidates post their signs legally.

“All political candidates and their election committees, as they get started putting these signs out, if they’ve got any question at all about where, when or how to do it, they can call 371-4215 or come to this office,” he said. “I’ll see them, help them, educate them, and do everything I can short of putting the sign up for them.”

Having confiscated 52 illegally placed non-political signs this week alone, Cooley said many residents are simply unaware of the rules.

“The main thing is the issue of off-premise signs,” he said. “If you advertise any business, product, or function that is not going on at that property, it’s considered an off-premise sign. A few years ago [the city council] basically wrote those out.”

Section 72-3 of City Ordinance No. 899 says “Signs shall pertain to the identification of the primary uses and/or primary services provided or products sold on the premise…”

Within certain restrictions, Cooley said political signs, signs promoting charitable organizations, school or church functions, and signs directing people to a business off the road are exceptions to the off-premise sign rule. However, many of these signs are still placed illegally.

“They may not be placed on public property or public right-of-ways,” Cooley said. “Every time you pull up to a corner, and you see one sticking out next to a stop sign, that is illegal.”

Political signs must be posted on private property with the consent of the property owner. They cannot be larger than 32 square feet, though they can be double-sided.

Cooley said each illegally placed sign incurs a $50 penalty upon confiscation. Each sign must be picked up within thirty days following the relevant election.

“If where the right-of-way ends is questionable, the rule of thumb we usually use is the telephone poles,” he said. “The poles are generally set on the edge of the right-of-way. If you eyeball that line down the property, and you make sure the sign is behind that line, then it’s going to be legal.”

In the absence of a telephone poll, sidewalks also work as an indicator.

In addition to signs posted in the ground on public property, Cooley said another common issue is people sticking various paper advertisements onto things like telephone polls.

“It is explicitly illegal to tack anything to a telephone poll,” he said. “All these garage sales, lost cats, and things like that – it’s a fifty dollar fine for every one of those I pull up. I usually make a sweep on Monday or Tuesday to pick up the ones from the weekend. If you want to advertise something like that, you can do it on your own property or in the newspaper.”

Cooley also sees people posting political signs on a vehicle or boat trailer and leaving them around town.

“It can’t be on public property or take up parking spaces in an established business,” he said.

For more information on the legality of various signage, contact the building office at 318-371-4215 or stop by the office at City Hall.

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