Election is over, but illegal road signs still a problem
Wednesday, 14 November 2012 12:02

Time to also take down yard political signs

by Ben Boehl

    With the election over, it is time to remove those political signs. For those residents who have political signs on their property, the county says they must be removed within a week after the election.alt
    Of course, the political signs on public property, such as the median strips on roadways, are illegal and should be removed immediately.
    Lionel Van Dommelen, head of Baltimore County Code Enforcement, said that the removal of illegal signs is a priority, but it’s not code enforcement’s top priority, as they deal with quality-of-life conditions such as trash and rats. With so many political signs plastered all over the area, the agency came up with a plan.
    “We said we wouldn’t be taking any political sign complaints prior to the election,” Van Dommelen said as he expects many of those signs gone by this week.

The Clean Bread and Cheese Creek  group held a cleanup and removed 208 political signs just days after the election.
    “In addition to the signs, we picked up dozens of steel sign frames that had their signs removed.  These steel frames are very dangerous to be left without their signs. Not only are they nearly invisible, presenting a tripping hazard with their two metal spikes sticking up, they are very dangerous to the crews that mow the median strips and road beside the roads,” the Clean Bread and Cheese Creek group said in a statement.  
    “We would like to thank our volunteers for coming through for us once again, braving traffic and doing a great job of helping us to keep our community clean.”
    John Long, founder of the Clean Bread and Cheese group, said that many of these political groups talked about civic responsibility, but after the election was over, they showed no civic responsibility as they couldn’t even come back to pick up their signs.
    “There were still signs up a couple days after the election. Some of the signs were thrown in the gutter,” Long said. “I didn’t like the way it looked in the community.”
    While those election signs should be gone for another two years, many businesses place illegal signs along roadways all year long.
    John Melzer, a resident who lives off Holabird Avenue and is a volunteer with Clean Bread and Cheese Creek, was crossing Merritt Boulevard and had an encounter with one of those signs.
    “One night I was walking across Merritt Boulevard and the sign part was gone but they had left the metal holder still there,” Melzer said.
    “I did not see that until I tripped over it. I could have been seriously hurt had I fallen into oncoming traffic.”
    Melzer said that the signs he saw along Merritt Boulevard is from the Room Store. He said they usually appear on Friday afternoons and are gone by Monday.
    Van Dommelen, who lives in the Dundalk area, has also seen the furniture store’s signs on Merritt Boulevard and has contacted the Room Store about the removal of their signs.
    “I’ve called them and they have been unresponsive,” Van Dommelen said.
    No one from the Room Store on North Point  Boulevard was available for comment, as the phone was disconnected when The Eagle attempted contact.
    Back in the spring, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz toured the west side of Baltimore County and spent the day with Van Dommelen removing illegal signs in the Windsor Mill area.    
    Kamenetz said in April that these signs clutter the landscape, contribute to litter and can be distracting to drivers.
    The county executive added that the placement of illegal signs is an unfair business practice that puts law-abiding businesses at a competitive disadvantage.
    “Our Code Enforcement Bureau responds to complaints by removing signs and works with businesses posting signs illegally to advise them of the law and bring them into compliance,” Kamenetz said.
    The county said first-time offenders will be asked to remove the signs. Then the county will remove the signs and a fine of $500 could be issued for each illegal sign.
    What if the average citizen sees an illegal sign placed on public property? Are they allowed to remove the sign?
    “We don’t prohibit them from taking down the sign,” Van Dommelen said.