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Campaigns Know But Ignore Sign Ordinance

Summerville's ordinance regarding election signs gets no respect.

Candidates know the ordinance well, but they also know something else: the town is not enforcing its own election sign ordinance.

Previously , the town's sign ordinance limits election signs to only appearing 30 days prior to an election. The next election is June 12, and signs have been up for months now, lining yards and right-of-ways. 

According to town Director of Planning & Economic Development Madelyn Robinson, the signs keep sprouting up like mushrooms.

"There are far more signs than we have the resources to deal with them all. We try to manage it to some extent; it's just that they're like mushrooms," Robinson said. "As soon as we get five up, we'll get 15 more out there. It's a never-ending cycle ... I know were not the only jurisdiction that struggles with this."

The single codes enforcement officer has been in contact with each campaign so they know the rules, Robinson said.

Sometimes it's supporters who don't know the rules, Robinson said, but other times it's the candidate — who knows better, but wants to keep a competitive edge.

"I totally understand that frustration that when you're complying with law and not getting exposure. Regardless of what the rule is, his competitor's name is getting out there," Robinson said.

Dorchester County Councilman Bill Heard of District 6, which includes much of the town, and his challenger Roger Goodman have both displayed signs in town limits.

"I noticed others had signs up and noticed they were not asked to take them down and decided to follow suit," Hearn said. "The town is not enforcing the ordinance."

Goodman said during Patch's that if the town asked for his signs to be removed, he would comply. Hearn said he would too. 

One coveted advertising location in town is still devoid of campaign signs: the end of Berlin G. Myers Parkway. In years past, the town has cracked down heavily on signs displayed there, so many candidates may have learned their lesson. But the rest of the town seems up for stakes.

Candidates continue to straddle the line between breaking a town ordinance and risking lost name recognition.

"It's really kind of a conflict inside, you feel competitively you need to have your sign out there," Hearn said.

But while his signs may be part of the clutter, he said his signs will be removed June 13, following the election, and will not linger like some of the signs still lingering from the presidential preferential primary in January. 

Here is the ordinance dealing with signs:

Sec. 32-249. - Temporary event signs.
(a)Temporary event signs announcing a campaign drive, activity or event of a civic, philanthropic, educational or religious organization for noncommercial purposes are permitted subject to the following:

(1)Number, area, height and location. The permitted number, area, height, location and construction of temporary event signs shall be determined by the zoning administrator with consideration given to the public safety and the sign reasonably necessary and appropriate for the intended purpose.

(2)Any temporary event sign which is permitted by the zoning administrator to extend over or on to a public right-of-way shall be erected and maintained in such a manner as to not interfere or obstruct access, activity or vision along any such public right-of-way.

(b)Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection

(a) above, signs, pennants, flags, banners, posters or similar exhibits displayed for a political group candidate for election to a public office or political cause are deemed to be a temporary event sign for the purpose of the respective event announced. For the purpose of an election, the event is considered to occur on the date of the election; provided, however, that primary elections are considered to be separate events from special or general elections.

(c)Temporary event signs shall not be displayed more than 30 days before a respective event and shall be removed within ten days after the completion or conclusion of the event to include a runoff election.

(d)Temporary event signs displayed for a political group, candidate for election to a public office, or a political cause shall not be restricted in size, and those announcing the same event shall not be placed within 100 feet of one another on the same property or lot.

Michael Dawson April 18, 2012 at 07:09 PM
Whether you think the law is a good one or not is irrelevant... it is a standing law. What bothers me most is that our two candidates for the highest law enforcement position in the County (L.C. Knight and Mike Turner) have both chosen to ignore it! I wonder how it would go down if I got stopped for speeding somewhere in the County and used the argument, "I don't agree with that posted speed limit, so I chose to ignore it!" And the case that a candidate cannot get his name out there while his competition is ignoring the law to do so is weak. The law only applies to Town Limits. With the ameoboid boundaries of town, there are plenty of locations within the County but outside of town to junk up with their never ending campaign signs as some candidates have done for months. I would rather they do what is right rather than what is politically expedient...

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