Illegal signs and sell-out supervisors

Among the lame excuses the all-Republican Loudoun Board of Supervisors gave last year for why they could not enforce the law prohibiting people from sticking signs all over the public rights of way was that any fines collected have to go to the state Department of Transportation; thus the county could not recoup the costs of enforcing the law.

Of course the county does not recoup the costs of enforcing most laws —  laws are intended to protect the public interest, not generate revenue streams or pay for themselves. And the county already has the authority to remove illegal signs and seek court orders against serial offenders. (Not that it does either one, since the new Board abolished the *volunteer* sign cleanup program that cost virtually nothing.)

But now Creigh Deeds, Democratic state senator from Charlottesville, has filed a bill in Richmond to amend the sign law to allow localities to keep the $100 per illegal sign fine that the law assesses (see below: amended language highlighted), thereby removing even the lame excuse our Board has been using for ignoring the scofflaws who are uglifying our county and harming the quality of life — and businesses that depend on tourism and Loudoun’s historic and scenic beauty.

It will be interesting to see if our very-friendly-to-the-sign-scofflaws Board will support this legislation . . . or whether they would rather preserve a convenient excuse to avoid enforcing a law that hits their generous campaign contributors in the development industry.

SB888: Advertising; payment of penalties & costs associated with enforcement of prohibition on certain.
SB888
SENATE BILL NO. 888
Offered January 9, 2013
Prefiled January 4, 2013
A BILL to amend and reenact 33.1-373 of the Code of Virginia, relating to payment of penalties and costs associated with enforcement of prohibition on certain advertising.
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Patron– Deeds
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Referred to Committee on Transportation
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Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia:
1.  That 33.1-373 of the Code of Virginia is amended and reenacted as follows:
33.1-373. Signs or advertising on rocks, poles, etc., within limits of highway; civil penalty.
Any person who in any manner (i) paints, prints, places, puts or affixes any sign or advertisement upon or to any rock, stone, tree, fence, stump, pole, mile-board, milestone, danger-sign, guide-sign, guidepost, highway sign, historical marker, building, or other object lawfully within the limits of any highway or (ii) erects, paints, prints, places, puts, or affixes any sign or advertisement within the limits of any highway shall be assessed a civil penalty of $100. Each occurrence shall be subject to a separate penalty. All civil penalties collected under this section shall be paid into the Highway Maintenance and Operating Fund. Signs or advertisements placed within the limits of the highway are hereby declared a public and private nuisance and may be forthwith removed, obliterated, or abated by the Commissioner of Highways or his representatives without notice. The Commissioner of Highways may collect the cost of such removal, obliteration, or abatement from the person erecting, painting, printing, placing, putting, affixing or using such sign or advertisement. When no one is observed erecting, painting, printing, placing, putting, or affixing such sign or advertisement, the person, firm or corporation being advertised shall be presumed to have placed the sign or advertisement and shall be punished accordingly. Such presumption, however, shall be rebuttable by competent evidence. In addition, the Commissioner or his representative may seek to enjoin any recurring violator of this section. The Commissioner of Highways may enter into agreements with any local governing body authorizing local law-enforcement agencies or other local governmental entities to act as agents of the Commissioner for the purpose of (i) enforcing the provisions of this section and (ii) collecting the penalties and costs provided for in this section. Any such agreement shall provide that all penalties and costs collected pursuant to such agreement shall be paid to the affected locality.

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