County legislation would ban small signs in a move some call “anti-business”
After the April’s Democratic primary, Montgomery County Council member George Leventhal (D-At large) has had enough of the political campaign signs in the county.
Seeking to rid the county of the “eyesores” along roadways and neighborhoods, Leventhal sponsored a bill to prevent further proliferation of signage.
On June 21, Leventhal introduced Zoning Text Amendment 16-06, would enforce stricter penalties on political candidates, non-profit groups, realtors and business owners who chose to advertise with temporary signs near public road ways. A hearing for the bill is scheduled for Aug. 2.
Leventhal said constituents complained to him about the signs.
“They generate clutter and the just look unsightly,” Leventhal said.
However, some residents criticized the bill as potentially harming businesses.
“It’s another anti-business piece of legislation,” said Bethesda real estate agent Jane Fairweather.
Fairweather said signs like the ones Leventhal is proposing to ban, are critical for real estate agents like her depend on the using temporary signs in neighborhoods to advertise open houses for prospective buyers.
“There are an awful lot of people that find them,” said Fairweather of her signs for open houses, “because they are riding around the neighborhoods they want to live in.”
The bill defines a temporary sign as one that would be displayed on public property for 30 days or less and is made of non-permanent material such as wood, canvas or cardboard. The bill does not apply to signs on private property.
“I’m a bit skeptical that signs in the public right of way make much difference for the purchase of a home,” Leventhal said.
Council President Nancy Floreen (D-At large) said she is undecided about whether to support the bill. She called the signs a nuisance but also said the proposed bill may go too far.
“For realtors and such, I don’t think it’s particularly realistic to say you can’t have a sign out there on a Sunday,” Floreen said.
Mike McDonald, the regional vice president for the Boys and Girls Club, said temporary signs are a cheap way for his non-profit organization to advertise afterschool and summer programs.
“Having a sign is a relatively inexpensive way of generating interest,” McDonald said.
McDonald said he does not want to comment on whether he is for or against the proposed bill but said the Boys and Girls Clubs depend on temporary signs for advertising.
Signs in the right of way are already regulated in the County.
Zoning regulations bar signs from being displayed for more than 30 days without a permit from the Department of Permitting Services.
Those who fail to follow the regulation can be fined $500.
According to Jeff Zyonst, legislative attorney for the County Council, no one has filed a permit for a temporary sign in the last five years.
Leventhal said it is difficult to enforce current County laws already prohibiting the type of signs he is trying to ban.
“The enforcement has been weak,” Leventhal said.
Under the proposed bill, residents can still apply for a permit for a sign in the public right away, but it will have to be approved by the Sign Review Board before it can be legally placed.
Leventhal said he is open to changing the bill.