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Is it legal to attach political signs to road signs such as school zone or speed limit signs?

Julian March
StarNews

Q. Is it legal to attach political signs to road signs such as school zone, speed limit, and other roadway signs?

A.  This is going to be a lengthy answer, but the rules are unclear. To MyReporter’s nonlegal mind, it appears that while the state could permit it, the city would frown upon it.

We posed the question to Katie Hite, a division traffic engineer for the state Department of Transportation

Hite pointed to the following state law:

Ҥ 136-32. Other than official signs prohibited.Regulation of signs.

(a) Commercial Signs. – No unauthorized person shall erect or maintain upon any highway any warning or direction sign, marker, signal or light or imitation of any official sign, marker, signal or light erected under the provisions of G.S. 136-30, except in cases of emergency. No person shall erect or maintain upon any highway any traffic or highway sign or signal bearing thereon any commercial advertising: or political advertising, except as provided in subsections (b) through (e) of this section: Provided, nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit the erection or maintenance of signs, markers, or signals bearing thereon the name of an organization authorized to erect the same by the Department of Transportation or by any local authority referred to in G.S. 136-31. Any person who shall violate any of the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. The Department of Transportation may remove any signs erected without authority. authority or allowed to remain beyond the deadline established in subsection (b) of this section.

(b) Compliant Political Signs Permitted. – During the period beginning on the 30th day before the beginning date of “onestop” early voting under G.S. 163-227.2 and ending on the 10th day after the primary or election day, persons may place political signs in the right-of-way of the State highway system as provided in this section. Signs must be placed in compliance with subsection (d) of this section and must be removed by the end of the period prescribed in this subsection.

(c) Definition. – For purposes of this section, “political sign” means any sign that advocates for political action. The term does not include a commercial sign.

(d) Sign Placement. – The permittee must obtain the permission of any property owner of a residence, business, or religious institution fronting the right-of-way where a sign would be erected. Signs must be placed in accordance with the following:

(1) No sign shall be permitted in the right-of-way of a fully controlled access highway.

(2) No sign shall be closer than three feet from the edge of the pavement of the road.

(3) No sign shall obscure motorist visibility at an intersection.

(4) No sign shall be higher than 42 inches above the edge of the pavement of the road.

(5) No sign shall be larger than 864 square inches.

(6) No sign shall obscure or replace another sign.

“Our operating procedures are governed by safety for the travelling public, sight distance, and whether or not the sign is disrupting our operations. If the signs are not interfering with any of those activities and they meet the provisions laid out in the general statute, then they are allowed,” Hite wrote in an email. “Our hope is that the respective parties will be proactive in collecting their signs in a timely manner since the primaries have concluded.”

We also posed this question to Don Bennett, the city of Wilmington’s traffic engineer.

Here are what the city rules say:

Sec. 18-591. Prohibited signs.

In all zoning districts the erection, construction, location and/or the use of any sign is prohibited as follows. Such signs, if deemed to create a public safety hazard by the city manager, may be removed immediately; otherwise, prohibited signs shall be removed as provided under section 18-601.

(b)No sign shall be permitted on or protrude into a public right-of-way, street or passageway except as provided specifically herein.

(c)Except for signs installed by or with the approval of an appropriate governmental agency, no sign shall be attached to, hung or painted on any curb stone, hydrant, lamppost, barricade, temporary walk, telephone pole, telegraph pole, electric light pole or other utility pole, public fence or on a fixture of a fire alarm or police call system within any public right-of-way.

(o) All signs that are located within any public right-of-way, e.g., on utility poles, street markers, traffic signs, etc., in violation of this chapter may be removed and disposed of by the Code Enforcement Officer (or other public employee as authorized by the City Manager) without notice.

Sec. 18-576. Signs permitted in most districts.

The following signs are allowed in all districts except for the separate use historic districts, historic district overlays, the River Front Mixed Use, Mixed Use, Main Street Mixed Use and Central Business Districts, provided, however, political signs as listed in subsection 18-576(d), are allowed in all districts:

(d) Nonilluminated political signs, not to individually exceed twelve (12) square feet in sign area. Such signs shall be removed thirty (30) days following the applicable election or referendum. Political signs may be placed only on private property and only with permission of the property owner (see section 18-592, signs not requiring permits).

Section (o) seems to us to indicate that political signs attached to traffic signs may be removed by the Code Enforcement Officer.

RELATED LINKS:

Can I remove political signs on street corners and medians?

Is there any way to stop the harassing political phone calls?

 

 

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