Political Signs: Is Bigger Always Better?
by City Attorney Mike Goimarac
Sedona AZ (November 8, 2011) – Ahhh, it’s fall again; football, autumn leaves, and, yes, a gauntlet of campaign signs filling our boulevards and demanding our attention. And with another election coming this next spring, we can expect a plethora of bigger and more plenteous super-sized signs thanks to our State legislature. Apparently our State lawmakers thought that local governments were stifling the ability of politicians to be noticed because they have chosen to override local restrictions on the size, duration, and placement of political signs.
For years, Sedona’s sign code has limited the size of political signs to not exceed six square feet in area or three feet in height. Political signs cannot be erected earlier than 60 days prior to the voting period and must be removed within 5 days after an election. House Bill 2500, passed this year by the Arizona Legislature, states that city and town ordinances are overridden and cannot justify the removal of political signs as long as they are less than 32 square feet in size when located in a non-residential area. That’s over five times larger that what Sedona has traditionally allowed. The state law now allows signs to be put up 60 days before the primary election and they can remain up until 15 days after the general election.
The City Council has recently adopted amendments to the City’s sign code in order to bring it into conformity with state law. In an effort to mitigate the potential impact of this recent state legislation, these amendments set forth voluntary guidelines regarding the size and duration of political signs. These voluntary guidelines state:
In 2011, state legislation mandated that all municipalities allow political signs with size and location limits that dramatically exceed prevailing Sedona city standards for political signs. The City’s political sign restrictions had served for years to limit the negative aesthetic affects of numerous large political signs throughout the city and thereby served to fulfill the city’s vision of enhancing its natural beauty. While, in light of state legislation the City is no longer able to mandate these same standards, the City does urge all political candidates and political committees to voluntarily adhere to the following non-mandatory political sign guidelines:
A. It is recommended that no political signs be placed on or about public property or within any public right-of-way.
B. Political signs shall not be erected earlier than 60 days prior to the special voting period, and it is recommended that such signs be removed within 5 days after the Election Day.
C. It is recommended that one sign shall be permitted per street frontage per lot or parcel for each candidate or measure, and that the size of the sign not exceed 6 square feet in area and 3 feet in height.
Now that these voluntary guidelines have been adopted, it will then be up to individual candidates to determine if they are willing to adhere to them or to instead take advantage of the new state legislation allowing for much larger signs for a longer duration.
But just think, with the upcoming election this next spring, wouldn’t it be refreshing to see politicians choose to restrain their desire to be noticed in order to help Sedona remain unique in its desire to protect its scenic beauty.