Sign(s) behind the dotted line |

Sign(s) behind the dotted line

Carrie Click
Post Independent Photo/Kara K. Pearson W/ C2K story Political signs line the street in Rifle backing up candidates running for various political offices. The line between private property and public right of way is a blurred topic.

With the general election less than a month away, campaign signs are springing up all over the county – on neighborhood lawns, at storefronts, along fences – even in the middle of pastures. The posting of political signs is allowed on private – but not public – property and is determined by location, either by municipal, county or highway codes.No matter where a sign is posted, however, a general rule of thumb is to back off, literally – that is, give some space between campaign signs and the public right of way, meaning streets, highways and roads.The six-foot ruleAndrew McGregor, Glenwood Springs’ director of community development, said there’s another general rule that applies to most cities’ right of ways where sidewalks exist.”In the vast majority of cases, private property begins at the sidewalk,” McGregor said. The sidewalk and the median between the sidewalk and the street is public right of way, and that’s true in most neighborhoods, he said.

Glenwood’s municipal code gets even more specific. City clerk Robin Unsworth said campaign signs must be at least six feet inside a private property line.In Rifle, city planning director Matt Sturgeon said political signs are also not allowed to be placed in the public right of way, though there’s not a six-foot rule. Sturgeon said most property owners know where their property lines are, and if they don’t, they can refer to their improvement location certificate. An ILC details a particular property’s dimensions, and comes with the closing paperwork when a buyer purchases property. Sturgeon said property owners can also check with the county clerk and recorder if they have questions on their property lines.Still, Unsworth said Glenwood officials are pretty lenient when it comes to enforcing rules.”We don’t have a cop going around checking on signs,” she said. However, if city officials receive a complaint call about a specific case, she said they’ll check to see if there’s been a violation.Rifle’s Sturgeon agreed. He said so far during this political season, he hasn’t received any reports of sign violations.”We’re not out patrolling political signage,” he said. “If we got a phone call from a neighbor upset about a sign, we’d probably investigate it.” On the roadColorado Department of Transportation spokesperson Nancy Shanks said the public-right-of-way rule holds true with signs along state highways. She said often, property lines are distinguished by fences lining a highway.

“Fences are a good indicator,” said Shanks, “but sometimes the right of way goes beyond private property fence lines or beyond a commercial parking lot.”Shanks said generally there’s a 20- to 30-foot right of way along state highways, which means the back-off rule is probably a good one to follow.Still, CDOT, like regional cities, doesn’t have an enforcement team to check campaign signs.”We don’t have the manpower or the money to check signs and take down those that are in violation,” she said, although she said occasionally CDOT maintenance workers will take down a sign if it’s a safety issue. Those signs are stored at the nearest maintenance barn.Shanks said campaign signs aren’t the only signs that fall under right of way rules. “Real estate signs are also subject to these codes,” she said. “They’re subject to removal if we find they’re in the right of way.” Glenwood’s McGregor seemed to sum up the overall philosophy regarding political signs in the region. “We tend to take a nonaggressive enforcement position when it comes to signs,” McGregor said. “Unless there’s a safety issue with a sign blocking an intersection or something like that, we try to stay out of it.” Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518

cclick@postindependent.comTHERE’S YOUR SIGN…Some rules regarding campaign signs: • No political signs are allowed within 100 feet of a polling place during election time. That includes early voting polling places – Garfield County Courthouse and Garfield County Fairgrounds – starting Oct. 18. • In unincorporated Garfield County, building and planning director Mark Bean said signs can be placed on private property up to the property line and can be as large as three feet on each side. Anything larger requires a sign permit, which costs $1 a square foot. Rules regarding signage on commercial property allow for larger signs. • In general, signs should be removed within seven days following election day. • Renting a commercial or residential property? Nancy Shanks from CDOT said it’s probably a good idea to check with your landlord before posting campaign signage on the property.

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