Campaign signs on private property are permitted under Conyers and Rockdale County sign ordinances. Campaign signs on public property or on public rights of way are prohibited and will be removed by the city and county. Campaign signs are also prohibited on state rights of way. -- Staff Photo: Sue Ann Khun-Smith
COVINGTON -- Political candidates who place signs in public rights of way are breaking local and state laws.
The Georgia Department of Transportation issued a warning to candidates recently not to post signs on rights of way, defined as a strip of land over which facilities such as highways, railroads or power lines are built and maintained.
"Georgia law stipulates that Georgia DOT is required to maintain a safe roadway for the traveling public, which includes the immediate removal of any obstruction of hazard that may pose a threat to the traveling public," according to the press release. "Any sign along Georgia's state routes and interstates must meet safety standards and be permitted by Georgia DOT to be in our right of way. Typically we find signs that advertise yard sales, real estate for sale and/or political candidates on department land adjacent to our roads. None of those types of signs are allowed and will be removed by our personnel."
Violators will be guilty of a misdemeanor, the press release states.
Putting signs on local rights of way is also against the law. If candidates put signs in the city of Conyers rights of way, the signs will be picked up and tossed out, said Marvin Flanagan, director of planning and inspection services.
"With the time it takes to file court actions and issue citations, it's easier to just dispose of them. When they put them on the right of way, that's the risk they take," he said.
Flanagan said between 40 and 60 signs -- not just campaign signs, but advertisements, garage sale and real estate signs -- are collected and tossed each week in Conyers.
Ordinances governing campaign signs are similar in Rockdale County, where campaign signs are permitted on private property, as long as the property owner has granted permission. Campaign signs may not be larger than 6 feet square. Placing campaign signs on rights of way or any public property or building is not allowed.
Marshall Walker, director of Planning and Development for Rockdale County, said in an email response to questions that the county will not remove unwanted campaign signs from private property -- that's the responsibility of the property owners. He also said the county would remove any signs placed in the public right of way.
In Newton County, the length of time a political campaign sign is displayed and the number of signs displayed on private property is not regulated, according to Scott Sirotkin, direct of the Department of Development Services. But signs are not allowed on public rights of way. Signs also are not allowed to exceed 5 feet in height and 16 square feet per side and can only have two sides. Additional regulations govern the type of mounting device the sign must be displayed on, and signs can't be within 100 feet of an intersection or closer than 10 feet to the pavement of a roadway.
Sirotkin said that political candidates were notified this year of the rules and regulations regarding campaign signs, and there have been fewer issues this campaign season than in years past.
Campaign signs placed in rights of way in the city of Covington are removed by code enforcement officers, according to Planning Director Randy Vinson.
"Our main objective is compliance, however if there becomes a habitual, blatant offender the (code enforcement officer) could issue a citation to the offender and seek some sort of penalty from the municipal judge," per the city code, Vinson said.
Editor Alice Queen contributed to this report.