Caught by surprise that the public might actually dislike illegal advertising signs littering the roadways and countryside of their county, even if they were posted there by major Republican campaign contributors, the new Loudoun Board of Supervisors has been coming up with still more creative explanations for why they killed the illegal-sign cleanup program as one of their first official acts upon taking office last month.
At a meeting of the board’s Land Use Committee last week, Suzanne “The Pathfinder” Volpe (R-Algonkian) again repeated the utterly bogus accusation that volunteers in the cleanup program had removed signs from private property. The county’s staff reported to the board that in fact although the illegal sign posters frequently made that false assertion in complaints to the county, their investigations showed that the signs were in fact on public property and properly removed.
Volpe even more absurdly “explained” that one problem with the volunteer sign cleanup effort was that the volunteers did their job too thoroughly: as reported in Leesburg Today, she fretted that one of the “biggest concerns” was when “temporary signs were removed within minutes of being placed.”
Apparently our esteemed lawmakers have great difficulty reading the law. To reiterate:
It is illegal to place a sign within the VDOT right of way. It is illegal whether or not the sign is “temporary.” It is illegal whether it is there a minute or a week. The people who place their signs there have no right to get their signs back: the commissioner of transportation or his authorized representative is empowered by law to remove and discard the signs—and in fact to fine the perps whose name appears on the sign $100 per occurrence.
Volpe then spun an imaginary scenario involving someone pulling up in a car to complain about signs being removed and how it would be necessary to have a county staff supervisor on hand to refer the complainant to, were the volunteer cleanup program to be revived. Actually, if Volpe bothered to talk to any of the 100 or so active sign volunteers she fired last month, she would learn that indeed they all have had people stop their cars and speak to them—to thank them for keeping our county beautiful.
Of course, having to have a staff supervisor on the scene would mean that cleanup volunteers are limited to a single location at a time. It would mean they could not clean up illegal signs on Friday evenings and weekends, when the flood of illegal real estate and developer signs regularly appear. She knows that much, I suspect.
Janet Clarke (R-Blue Ridge) meanwhile tried to turn the issue on its head and suggest that now that the program was dead thanks to her, she did not see “a tremendous need to have a formal sign program run by the county.”
No, what there was no “tremendous need” for was to abolish a program that worked extremely well, cost the county almost nothing, freed up staff in the zoning enforcement office to do other work, and removed thousands of crappy signs placed chiefly by the developers who funded these guys’ campaigns.
The head of zoning enforcement pointedly asked the supervisors at the hearing whether, having promised that they were “only” eliminating the “volunteer component” of the sign removal effort, that meant they wanted him to devote more staff time to picking up illegal signs.
He received no reply at all to his question.
PS By the way, regarding the effort to muddy the waters with bogus accusations about signs lifted from private property, it’s worth recalling that off-site advertising signs are illegal even on private property, with only a very few exceptions; the posting of these signs is governed by the county zoning ordinance.