With arrival of spring, illegal signs are in bloom
Wednesday, 30 April 2014 13:40


Political signs now outnumber business signs

by Ben Boehl

    Ed Lewis wants to know why there are so many illegal signs all over Dundalk.
    The local resident contacted The Eagle and local officials to complain about the proliferation:
    “A crop of ‘We Buy Houses’ signs have been posted throughout our area. I bet if you drive Dundalk, Holabird and Wise avenues, you will see dozens, if [not] more ....
    “One sign is handmade with the message ‘We Will Buy Your House’  The other professional sign has the message ‘Stop The Insomnia, Sell your House’,” Lewis wrote in March.
    “I bet if the law is enforced and the people are fined, these practices and eyesores would go away.”
    A month later, more signs have popped up through the area — many of them are of the political variety.
    Del. John Olszewski Jr. responded to Lewis’ compliant by saying that he too is frustrated by the signs and has been in contract with Baltimore County Code Enforcement.
    “[I] have been told that we have two options: first, since they are illegally placed on Baltimore County property, to remove them ourselves as we encounter them. 
    “For my part, I will try to do this as I come across them so that we are proactively engaging the issue rather than waiting for others to respond.  That is the second option: to put in [a complaint of] a code violation — which it is — and wait for the complaint to be processed and then for an inspector to get sent out,” Olszewski replied to Lewis in an e-mail that was also sent to The Eagle.
    “The problem is, especially in the summer, I think that priorities in the county would be to handle rat, trash and grass complaints, so it might take longer than we’d like for inspectors to address the sign problems.”
    In recent weeks, business signs have begun to fade into the background as political signs start proliferating in anticipation of the June 24 primary.
    Many candidate signs have been found in residential yards and on business properties, but there have been illegal signs spotted along highways owned by the county and the state.
    Such signs can be found at the corner of Holabird Avenue and Merritt Boulevard, and there is some question about whether or not they are on government property.
    The signs are near the property of the Boulevard Diner, but the area by the right turn lane from Merritt Boulevard to Holabird Avenue is county property.
    Other signs have been posted in median strips and along roadsides.
    Lionel van Dommelen, chief of Baltimore County Code Enforcement — and a campaign volunteer for House of Delegates candidate Ed Crizer in his off hours — told The Eagle last week that a federal court ruling prevents the county from removing political signs on public property
    “A number of years ago, [former governor Bob] Ehrlich’s campaign filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court and asked that the court issue an injunction prohibiting the county from enforcing those sign regulations governing political signs and declaring them unconstitutional,”  Van Dommelen wrote in an e-mail.
    “The court did in fact determine that the regulations were unconstitutional. As a result, Baltimore County is not enforcing these regulations, pursuant to this decision.”
    However; Van Dommelen told The Eagle on Monday that the county will take a new approach due to the volume of complaints his office has received.
    “The complaint volume for signs has increased, and the determination has been made that we will be enforcing the sign regulations on county property as well as in the county right of way, political or not,” Van Dommelen said.
    “Correction notices and citations will use the standard zoning restrictions on signs and not those which have been ruled to be unconstitutional by the courts,” he explained.
    “Regarding political signs, the procedure will be [that] we will notify the treasurer or campaign manager for the candidate of any violations and give them 72 hours to remove the signs.”