blue and white road sign

The 2022 pri­ma­ry has come and gone (thank­ful­ly).  And while the results have received some dis­cus­sion, as is nor­mal, there is one aspect of the elec­tion cycle that receives lit­tle atten­tion, cer­tain­ly here in Clark County.

It is hard to recall a pre­vi­ous elec­tion in which more polit­i­cal signs were preva­lent.  Oversized signs and a pletho­ra of yard signs were plas­tered all over the local land­scape, most in vio­la­tion of the law reg­u­lat­ing the post­ing of signs, both local ordi­nances and state law.

What is equal­ly puz­zling is why those who are run­ning for pub­lic office (or their work­ers) remain so blithe­ly igno­rant of the laws regard­ing sign place­ment.  One would log­i­cal­ly think that adher­ence to the law would be of para­mount impor­tance to some­one seek­ing pub­lic office.  But that appears to not be the case, and most­ly has nev­er been.

The state of Kentucky specif­i­cal­ly pro­hibits signs not erect­ed in accor­dance with DOH pro­vi­sions, and the state has occa­sion­al­ly act­ed local­ly to see that signs in the state high­way rights-of-way are removed.

Locally, the Winchester/Clark County sign ordi­nance, adopt­ed in 2018, has very spe­cif­ic pro­hi­bi­tions relat­ing to the place­ment of signage.

Section 11.7.C:  “No sign shall be attached to or paint­ed on the sur­face of any tree, util­i­ty pole, or street light.” Fortunately, this pro­vi­sion seems to be most­ly vio­lat­ed only by yard sale signs, as polit­i­cal signs seem to be almost entire­ly yard signs or larg­er post signs.

Section 11.7.H:  “No sign may be placed in or project into the pub­lic or pri­vate street right-of-way, except as specif­i­cal­ly per­mit­ted here­in.” (Yard signs are def­i­nite­ly not spec­i­fied herein).

Section 11.8 Prohibited signs in all zones, sub-sec­tion G spec­i­fies signs in a pub­lic right-of-way.

So, there in three sep­a­rate state­ments of con­di­tions for sign usage, are the clear and con­cise pro­hi­bi­tions on plac­ing signs illegally.

And yet these pro­vi­sions are rou­tine­ly vio­lat­ed every elec­tion sea­son with­out jus­ti­fi­ca­tion and with­out penalty.

Even when such signs show up on what may be assumed to be pri­vate prop­er­ty (which is cer­tain­ly allow­able) it is not unrea­son­able to ques­tion whether the prop­er­ty own­er has actu­al­ly giv­en per­mis­sion for the place­ment of the sign.  This was bla­tant­ly obvi­ous along McClure Road dur­ing the pri­ma­ry when so many signs appeared adja­cent to the road­way and may have either been with­in the right-of-way or on pri­vate prop­er­ty with­out permission.

And it’s cer­tain­ly pos­si­ble that some prop­er­ty own­ers, not famil­iar with the let­ter of the law, are reluc­tant to remove such signs. To be clear, any sign ille­gal­ly locat­ed with­in a pub­lic right-of-way is con­sid­ered detri­tus and can be removed by any­one.

Even our local code enforce­ment office seems reluc­tant to address this gross vio­la­tion of the law. 

Political can­di­dates cer­tain­ly have a right to be able to address the pub­lic by means of these signs.  But the signs must be placed in accor­dance with the law.

Oddly most of the polit­i­cal sig­nage seems to be placed in accor­dance with the pro­vi­sions of the time peri­od dur­ing which they are allowed by local ordi­nance.  Why then can­not the loca­tions of the signs not also be done in a man­ner that is lawful?

It will be inter­est­ing to see if there is any change come November.  Don’t bank on it.

  • Chuck Witt

    Chuck is a retired archi­tect, a for­mer news­pa­per colum­nist, and a life­long res­i­dent of Winchester.