No more signs in right-of-ways

The Hamilton County Commissioner approved an ordinance prohibiting signs from being placed in county right-of-ways. Violation of the ordinance is a Class C Infraction subject up to a $500 fine per sign. (Reporter photo by Jeff Jellison)

Commissioners cite safety concerns . . .

The Hamilton County Commissioners voted Monday to approve an ordinance that prohibits the placement of signs in Hamilton County right-of-ways and on thoroughfares maintained by the county.

Commissioners say placing signs in public right-of-ways makes it difficult for motorists to recognize regulatory signs which are necessary for safe travel and can often block the vision of motorists at intersections. “Public safety is our number one priority,” said Commissioner Mark Heirbrandt.

Monday’s meeting drew a crowd of opponents, many of which felt the ordinance was specifically put in place to hinder campaign efforts of current political candidates; however, according the Hamilton County Attorney Mike Howard, the ordinance prohibits all signs, not just candidate signs.

Hamilton County Council member Rick McKinney addressed commissioners Altman and Hierbrandt. “The little guy, the candidate that does not have unlimited campaign resources from vendors and contractors doing business with the county, such as the two of you, should be allowed to place their signs in the right-of-way for the short time a campaign entails. Such a move, as the one you are proposing, smacks heavy handedness and absolute control one would expect a dictator to impose.”

Howard responded by stating the ordinance actually levels the playing field for political candidates. “It prevents the big budget candidate from purchasing a large number of signs and placing them in the right-of-ways.”

In a statement issued to the Reporter, McKinney said, “Attempting to couch proposed changes as being in the interest of public safety or saving tax payer dollars is both shallow and hollow at best. Will the commissioners go as far as prohibiting signs of all nature, including realtor signs, which are far more intrusive and trashy, but present year-round?”

Christine Pauley, clerk treasurer for the City of Carmel and candidate for Hamilton County Council District 4, agreed that she does not like the litter of the signs in the right of ways; however, Pauley felt there needs to be an effort to educate the community before enforcement of the ordinance.

Commissioner Steve Dillinger, who was not in attendance at Monday’s meeting, told the Reporter in a telephone interview that he agreed with Pauley. “I think Christine makes a valid point, we do need to educate the public.”

Dillinger is suggesting the county work in cooperation with the cities to create an educational meeting to explain the ordinance.

“In the past I felt people placing signs in right-of-ways was an affordable opportunity for exposure; however, right of ways are being abused more and more,” said Dillinger.

Dillinger believes there needs to be consistency throughout the county. “We asked all of the mayors for their cooperation in implementing ordinances that would be consistent throughout the county,” stated Dillinger.

Commissioner Altman said, “I’ve been against using right-of-ways for advertising. If you are running for office you should have the support of your friends and neighbors, your signs should be on their property.”

The ordinance defines a Hamilton County right-of-way as the land contiguous to a Hamilton County street, including sidewalks, multi-use paths, land conspicuously used for the placement of public utilities or directional signs. Violation of the ordinance is a Class C Infraction and subject to a fine up to $500 per sign.

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