Signs, smoke, and mirrors

A new memo from the county zoning office staff to the Ever So Perplexed New Supervisors further points out the absurdity of the phony assumptions and arguments the new supervisors advanced to justify their quick and fact-free abolition of the volunteer program for cleaning up illegal advertising signs posted along the roadways.

The board, in a generous gift to the development and real estate industry that placed them in office, voted with virtually no warning or debate as one of its first official acts last month to abolish the program.

Insisting that all they had done was to end the “volunteer component,” several board members (notably the very developer friendly Janet Clarke, R-Blue Ridge) assured the good citizens of the county that the removal of illegal signs would continue, with county employees doing the job.

The new memo offers specifics on just what that means: The zoning office devotes a total of six man hours per week to the task; two intrepid employees set forth to Keep Loudoun Beautiful every Monday from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm.

This was as opposed to 82 volunteers who helped with the job under the now-killed program.

The memo also notes that of the 56,000 illegal signs cleaned up in the program’s three years, 93 percent were picked up by the volunteers. So, in other words, the supervisors at the VERY MINIMUM have cut enforcement of the law by 93 percent by killing the volunteer program. Good job!

More to the point, of course, the volunteers were able to work on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings, when county employees are home sleeping with untroubled consciences in their beds while the weekly regularly scheduled real estate sign onslaught begins. Many of the worst offenders—Beazer Homes, Selma, Toll Brothers—have crews that put up their literally hundreds of signs every Friday night and take them down every Sunday night. So the only way to make a dent in the visual blight they offer up to the people who actually live here, work here, or try depend on the tourism and visitor business or rural economy here, is to enforce the law when the law is being violated—namely on weekends.

As opposed to the cost-free volunteer program, the county staff memo notes that hiring a single part-time sign enforcement inspector to increase enforcement would cost the county $27,600.

Finally, the staff memo reinforces the total bogosity of the utterly phony claims made by the law-violating whining perpetrators who have been complaining that their signs were improperly removed. (This means you, Helen Ganster of Keller Williams Realty! This claim  was also repeated by Creative Thinker Supervisor “Ken” Reid, R-Leesburg.) Out of that total of 56,000 signs picked up, a grand total of four were found to have been improperly removed from private property during all that time. That works out to .007 percent.

The new scheme being hatched up by Supervisor Suzanne “The Pathfinder” Volpe would place volunteers under the direct supervision of a county employee. This of course would mean that collectors would be as inefficient as the current two 10 am-1 pm Mondays guys already are, but offer the window-dressing of pretending to have revived the program. In fact, it would simply be a sham that continues to allow the violators to get away with breaking the law.

The simple solution of course is direct action: it is perfectly legal for citizens to remove and dispose of any advertising sign placed in the VDOT right of way, county program or no county program. Meanwhile, citizens might also consider filing complaints with both VDOT and the county office of zoning enforcement every time they observe an illegal sign. Maybe that will get some action even from a board determined to reward their friends — who mainly seem to be commercial developers in Fairfax who chipped in a substantial part of the half million dollars they received from the development industry — and ignore ordinary citizens, who actually live here.


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