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City Council reviews political sign ordinance

by ANDREW MACIEJEWSKI - amaciejewski@wabashplaindealer.com

The Wabash City Council on Monday approved the first reading of an ordinance revising standards for displaying political signs within city limits. The ordinance now moves to a second reading on April 23.

The first reading was approved by the City Council unanimously at the recommendation of the Wabash City Plan Commission, which urged the changes to bring Wabash’s ordinance into compliance with state standards.

The ordinance, first adopted in 1995, did not include a clause that permits residents to display any size or number of political signs during the 60-day period before an election. The revision corrects this and extends the number of days city residents and candidates can display political signs from five days to six days after an election.

Wabash City Plan Commission attorney Doug Lehman told the City Council on Monday that the proposed amendment strengthens the language, clarifying ambiguities left by the current local law. For example, the previous ordiance said people may not post signs on utility poles or within eight feet of the street curb, but it did not explain why there are certain setback requirements or restrictions.

The new ordinance keeps these setback requirements but adds clarification that no sign may obstruct a driver or walker’s line of sight. It also clarifies that residents may not place signs on any property without the owner’s consent, including utility poles.

In addition, the revised ordinance restricts government properties from displaying political signs, since government may not endorse any candidate or issues related to elections.

Following approval, the ordinance will carry the following restrictions:

• Signs may not be placed within the prelawn area between the sidewalk and curb. If there is no sidewalk, signs must be at least eight feet from the street curb.

• Signs may not obstruct the line of sight for motorists.

• Signs may not be posted on utility poles without permission of the utility or the owner’s consent.

• Signs may not be placed on any government or public property, including the right of way at state and county roadways.

• Signs may not be placed on any property without the owner’s consent.

• During a period lasting 60 days before an election and until six days following an election, the City of Wabash cannot restrict the number or size of signs displayed unless the signs pose a public safety threat, including but not limited to obstruction of driver’s view of the roadway.

• Anytime outside of the election period, the City limits the size of any political sign to be less than 10 square-feet in size. All setback requirements apply no matter the time of year.

Anyone in violation of the ordinance may be fined no less than $10 dollars and no more than $2,000 for campaign sign violations, and each day in violation of the ordinance can constitute as a separate offense, according to Wabash Code 10-19.

Before the second reading, the City Council is looking into what buildings are restricted from posting political signs since some buildings like schools are quasi-public institutions.