County right to pull up errant political signs

info@islandpacket.comMarch 20, 2013 

"I'm just doing my job," said Beaufort County code enforcement officer Marion Smalls as he removed campaign signs that had been planted along U.S. 278 in Bluffton on Friday. Beaufort County workers are scooping up hundreds of the political signs because they violate a county ordinance, according to county manager Gary Kubic.

JAY KARR — Staff photo Buy Photo

With 18 candidates in Tuesday's 1st Congressional District primaries, it was inevitable that local roadsides would get cluttered with political signs.

But the view got a lot better when Beaufort County code enforcement officers confiscated more than 550 campaigns signs last week because they were put up too close to a road or intersection or did not have the required permit.

The rules governing campaign signs aren't difficult too understand, but they sure seem difficult for candidates to follow. Someone who wants to make rules for the rest of us ought to be able to follow the rules on politicals signs. (Also puzzling is why candidates think more signs translates into more support at the polls.)

In unincorporated Beaufort County, candidates need a permit. Signs must be at least 10 feet from highway rights of way for U.S. 278, S.C. 170 and S.C. 46. For other roads, signs can be placed up to a private property line. Signs can't block drivers' line of sight at intersections, and they can't be posted on street or fence posts, telephone or utility poles, trees or other natural features.

County officials can impound signs for 10 days. Signs can be recovered before the 10 days are up for a fee of $1 per square foot of the impounded sign.

In addition to putting up the signs in the wrong place (those placed in medians and roundabouts were particularly irritating), most of the primary candidates didn't get the required sign permit, said codes enforcement director Audra Antonacci. Signs without permits were pulled up even if they were properly located.

County officials don't like wasting time confiscating illegal political signs. They say they have better things to do, and they're right. But that doesn't mean they shouldn't enforce the law. It means political candidates should follow it.

The county's sign ordinance also calls for temporary signs, such as political signs, to be removed within 48 hours of an event. Let's see whether the candidates can get that right.

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