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7/3/2005
Councilman Weiner is Waging War on Illegal Roadside Clutter

Waging war on signage
Roadside clutter illegal, councilman reminds
By ANGIE BASIOUNY / The News Journal

07/03/2005

New Castle County Councilman Bob Weiner doesn't have to look for a sign. They're everywhere. And it bugs him.

Handbills advertising weight loss, house cleaning, moving services, margarita machine rentals, even political campaigns are stapled, nailed, tacked and otherwise plastered to utility poles all over New Castle County.

What most people don't realize is that the postings are illegal under the state's Clear Zone Safety Law, which prohibits any obstruction within 10 feet of a main roadway or seven feet of an interior street.

"I share a passionate concern, as do other state and county officials, about our community's quality of life and aesthetic attractiveness of our communities," Weiner said. "The visual clutter of a multitude of illegal signs and illegal cars for sale along our roadways decreases the quality of the appearance of a community."

So passionate is his concern that he stopped his car Thursday and confronted a man he saw climbing up a ladder to tack a sign to a Delmarva Power pole on Concord Pike in Talleyville. When Weiner told the man what he was doing was illegal, the man responded that a utility pole was public property. He left in his car and Weiner followed, hoping to get his tag number and report him to Delmarva Power.

Weiner said the man signaled a police officer, and they both had some explaining to do. Neither got a ticket, but Delmarva Power sent a letter Friday to the man's workplace demanding the business remove their signs from all power poles or face a $100 fine per sign. The business owner declined to comment.

"Unauthorized pole attachments have been an increasing problem for Delmarva Power," said Bill Yingling, the utility's spokesman. "They pre- sent a safety hazard to both the individuals who hang them and the utility crews who work on the poles."

In addition to breaking state law, people who post handbills on utility poles violate the National Electric Safety Code, which requires poles be clear of climbing hazards.

"It's time-consuming and costly to remove the signs," Yingling said. "And that's a cost borne ultimately by rate payers."

Indeed, the Delaware Department of Transportation picked up 36,000 signs in the clear zone last year at a cost of $4,000. This year, they're getting a little help from state lawmakers.

The General Assembly on Thursday approved a $25 penalty for violating the Clear Zone Safety Law. The law applies to all signs in the zone, whether they endorse a political candidate, seek a lost dog or hawk Girl Scout cookies.

Homemade roadside memorials for crash victims also are against the law, but DelDOT has never removed them out of respect for families who place them. That policy isn't changing; however, the agency is building a garden in Smyrna in the hopes people will express grief with an engraved memorial brick in the garden's walkway.

"That's a tug-at-the-heartstrings issue, whereas buy my boat, buy my home and vote for me are not," DelDOT spokesman Darrel Cole said.

Weiner agreed.

"There is quite a difference in terms of visual clutter and the health, safety and welfare dangers created by one or two temporary signs posted for a civic association meeting or a missing pet and the wholesale placement of numerous signs everywhere," he said. "Having said that, even civic groups and those citizens advertising for garage sales or missing pets should be cognizant of the 10-foot DelDOT right-of-way clear zone."

Contact Angie Basiouny at 324-2796 or abasiouny@delawareonline.com.

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