Placing for sale, for rent, or directional signs in the public right-of-way is illegal and always has been illegal. Stafford will begin cracking down on signs illegally placed in medians and on the side of the road, especially those that inhibit clear lines of sight along roadways. Read below for a recent article from the Free Lance Star.
Stafford to start fining for illegal signs
by Kristin Davis, The Free-Lance Star
Anyone who illegally plants a sign in a highway median or some other public right-of-way in Stafford County could earn a fine of $100 per offense. A crackdown beginning this weekend follows an abundance of complaints about illegal signs and makes good on an agreement with the Virginia Department of Transportation signed a year ago, said Jeff Harvey, director of Stafford Planning and Zoning. That agreement gives Stafford the authority to take down the signs in state-maintained right-of-ways and fine offenders.
County parks and recreation staff, often at risk to their own safety, have removed as many as 800 signs in a single weekend, according to county officials. The signs advertise everything from kitten sales to kitchen remodels and power washing services. Without a permit from VDOT, they’re illegal. The signs themselves can be dangerous, obscuring views of oncoming traffic. They also can be unsightly and turn into litter after a rainstorm, said Shannon Howell, a Stafford spokeswoman. Beginning this weekend, the county will take photos of the signs it removes and send out a fine notice to the person or business advertised on it. The notice will include a way to dispute the penalty.
Because the county can impose a fine for every sign, an offender who puts up 30 identical advertisements could face $3,000 in fines, plus additional costs, Howell said. The county encourages anyone who has put up signs illegally to take them down now and avoid fines altogether. “Hopefully, eventually, the problem will take care of itself,” Harvey said.
VDOT maintenance crews remove signs, too, usually ones people call about that create a traffic hazard, said spokeswoman Kelly Hannon. If the agency can identify who the sign belongs to, they’ll contact the owner and store it for safekeeping as long it has the space, she said. Any signs the county removes go to the landfill, Harvey said. In the past, Stafford has sent letters to companies and people who repeatedly put signs in rights-of-way. Rights-of-way include medians and, as a general rule, extend two feet behind a ditch line or behind a sidewalk, although distances can vary, Harvey said.
A proliferation of the advertisements led the county to take this latest step. The agreement with VDOT is similar to one struck with Spotsylvania County in 2012, Hannon said. Stafford urges anyone who wants to put a sign in a public right-of-way to contact VDOT for a permit or get permission from private property owners to erect signs there, although the latter could require a permit from the county.
Anyone with questions can call the Department of Planning and Zoning at 540/658-8668.