John Bell PO Box 1123 North Springfield, VA 22151-0123
HELP - We will keep asking for your help to our associate Robert Lauderdale who still needs financial help for "stealing" builders signs in Arlington County and Fairfax County. Robert paid a $5,000 restitution to the person who installed more than 2,800 illegal signs over a 2 year period. Robert is still paying his fines and court costs exceeding $5,000.00. Any readers who would like to contribute to help appease Robert's financial situation, please send $$$ or call him at the information below:
Robert Lauderdale 1110 No. Kenilworth Ave. Apt.# 1 Arlington, VA 22205
ARLINGTON COUNTY REPORT- Glebe Road from Lee Highway to south Arlington continues to be peppered with illegal signs. The worst offender is "Avalon at Ballston" the signs are up all week long and are placed on VDOT R-O-W, private property (including one Church), and on commercially zoned land. The usual other developers were up also (Atherton, Potomac Builders) but most of them come down sometime Monday and up on Thursday night. I Buy Houses showed up an Washington Blvd. for the first time in 4 months. Including one lose weight now.
On May 10, 2002 at 00:01 hours at Glebe Road and 13th St. in Arlington , VA an Illegal Sign Installer in a white pick up truck plates: VA: YBC 9579 pulled up on the sidewalk got out and started to place two signs on the VDOT R-O-W A few pictures were taken that we have attached to this report. He stopped looked, waited a while and said "If you don't want me to put a sign here I won't" Nothing was said to him, he did not put up a sign there and drove off.
He went to Washington Blvd. and turned right. A short time later he showed up and put two signs up in front of Marymount Univ. and the UTA office Building. He then drove down Glebe Road got on Rt. 50 and headed west towards Fairfax County. By Friday AM all his illegal signs were installed (except at 13th St. and Glebe Rd.).
Two weeks later at Clarendon Circle the same person and truck pulled up the driver got out and started to put up two signs on Arlington County Park property. Several pictures were taken and the Illegal Sign Installer said "If you don't want me to put the signs here I won't. You've got to talk to me." Nothing was said to him. He got in his truck and drove off westbound on Fairfax Drive and was not seen again. However, by Friday AM all his illegal signs were installed including at Clarendon Circle.
The Arlington County police were called (we are building a case for littering) but did not show until long after he had departed. It seems the police want to see the person putting the signs up and will not accept the word of a citizen of the county that a crime had been committed. Next time we are out the police will be call before he gets there and we will report to our subscribers what happens.
FAIRFAX REPORT – We sent our VAIS Position Paper to the Fairfax County Sign Task Force. This is to communicate our citizens concern and platform to eliminate illegal signs in Fairfax County and Virginia. (See attached: Position Paper)
We also made the following two recommendations to the Task Force:
First, Effect County law enforcement and administrative procedures regarding occupancy and building permits.
This would provide that any person who posts illegal signs that violates VA Code or Fairfax County Code shall have their permits stopped until these advertisements are removed. The person violating these sections shall be penalized appropriately.
For this purpose, Fairfax County zoning applications should have a check box element where the applicant acknowledges that they will comply with our present laws. Accordingly, the County actively pursues any violators. This adds accountability to our ridding the County of these public and private nuisances.
For example, Baltimore County, MD code effectively affords like zoning protections. Their procedure is each Monday, the Baltimore County zoning enforcement officers conduct follow-up on a list of complaints. (See attached: Baltimore Code)
Second, The County zoning office should use volunteer help. This could be in the form of full time or part time hours. We at VAIS strongly support using citizen volunteers to rid Virginia of the urban blight perpetrated by illegal signs. Fairfax County sorely needs a volunteer sign ranger program like the City of Austin to help rid our county of ugly street spam and, in turn, clean up our neighborhoods.
Using these resources are no different than volunteer police or fire/rescue persons. The zoning office could organize these persons into teams who would assist zoning officers in enforcing persistent illegal sign offenses. Likewise, these volunteers could be deputized in order to carry out specific duties. In addition, they could prepare materials for enforcement actions.
Our citizen volunteer force should also have VDOT authorization to remove any illegal signs from the public rights-of-way.
For these purposes, we offer to work with the county government for planning, organizing, staffing, directing, and controlling this effort. Initially, county resources would be office space, telephone/internet, and volunteer personnel processing and training actions.
Likewise, Houston, TX has 4 full time illegal sign zoning enforcement officers. They also use citizen volunteer services to assist them.
Important - (See attached: Austin TX Bandit Signs)
SELF SERVICE ADVERTISING BOX located at the entrance of Dunleigh development on Braddock Road has been removed. Unfortunately citizen awareness that these UGLY intrusions are litter is passive. Fairfax County is littered with thousands of these boxes. Make no mistake, these boxes are BIG business and their presence appears to be politically served.
AUSTIN TX REPORT - From our friend in the Lone Star State: Austin's Sign Code Enforcement initiative is an example of what a local citizen anti-sign activist group achieved. The Austin newsletter illustrates what the City of Austin did to address their problem. Our Virginia state and county governments should use this as an example to achieve a sign free environment.
Copied from: Neighborhood News from the City of Austin June 2002
Sign of the times: City cracks down on bandit signs
Having a garage sale? Better think twice before placing a sign on a nearby intersection advertising the event.
The City of Austin is cracking down on bandit signs — illegal signs placed in public right of way.
Why? Clearing up a few questions is the first step at solving the citywide problem.
What are bandit signs? Section 25-10-103 of the City’s Land Development Code states that signs are prohibited in public right of way (ROW). This means that a person may not install or use a sign maintained on a structure located on or over public property or public right of way. This ordinance has been on the City’s books for almost 20 years.
The City Manager and code enforcement staff working under the City Manager's direction have the authority to remove a sign or other advertisements located on public property or public right of way. The City doesn’t have to provide notice to remove or dispose of the illegally erected sign.
Some of the most common types of bandit signs seen every day on City intersections and streets are:
Garage sale notices. Employment solicitations. Local business advertisements. Political campaign signs. Directional signs for new homes and development. In many cases, the person installing the sign is not aware he is breaking the law. How is right of way defined? Right of way is legally defined in Section 25-1-21 of the Land Development Code as “land dedicated or reserved for streets, utilities or other public facilities.” Most often, the public can assume that land up to 10 feet back from the street on public property is considered public right of way for most neighborhood streets. As a general reference point, the land between the expansion joint of a driveway and the street is typically the public right of way.
The City has launched an aggressive public information and education campaign designed to educate the general public and key stakeholders about the sign ordinance. Staff will provide targeted educational outreach to the sign-making industry, local area businesses and groups posting temporary bandit signs in the public right of way to advertise a product, business location or event.
The City has cross-trained other departments that have crews already working in the public ROW to help remove illegal signs. The City now has additional resources other than code enforcement personnel to assist in removing illegal signs.
The City has launched a Volunteer Sign Ranger Program to get the community’s help as well. The program is possible through a new partnership with the Austin Police Department’s Community Liaison Office, which coordinates the recruitment and training of volunteers. Volunteers must complete intensive training and are highly visible to the public.
Program uniforms and City identification are issued to volunteers who travel in City vehicles when on duty. Volunteers work throughout the year with City staff to remove illegal signs. Interested citizens are already signing up!
Keep Austin Beautiful has agreed to help sponsor, plan and organize the City’s first annual clean-up effort to focus primarily on removing illegal signs— the Great City Signoff.
The City has begun filing charges against businesses and individuals (repeat violators) who knowingly violate the sign ordinance. A violation of the sign ordinance is a Class C misdemeanor and carries fines up to $500 per violation.
What can you do to help? Take a look around. There are probably bandit signs erected on intersections and along streets near your home. Sign up for the Volunteer Sign Ranger Program to help rid your community of bandit signs and, in turn, clean up your neighborhood.
Participants in the program will receive training about sign regulations and how to identify and safely remove illegal signs. Volunteers will be required to follow City of Austin policies and procedures, similar to APD’s Abandoned Vehicle Tagger’s Volunteer Program.
Sign Rangers will have scheduled work hours and work in “buddy teams” or directly with code enforcement staff. They will be assigned to an area of Austin and have access to staff for guidance and supervision.
To become a Volunteer Sign Ranger, contact Sherry Mitchell, Austin Police Department, (512) 459-4309; or Gloria Quinonez, Neighborhood Planning and Zoning Department (512) 974-7673.
For more information about the City’s Sign Initiative or to report the location of illegal ROW signs, contact Jesse Washington, Neighborhood Planning and Zoning Department, (512) 974-6576. E-mail information to: email@example.com.
To sign up to be a Volunteer Sign Ranger, contact Sherry Mitchell, Austin Police Department, (512) 459-4309; or Gloria Quinonez, Neighborhood, Planning and Zoning Department (512) 974-7673.
Participants will be required to attend specific training courses and will be assigned to a specific area in Austin to keep illegal signs out of public right of way. Join the effort to keep Austin beautiful.
Keep Austin Beautiful in partnership with the City of Austin is hosting the first annual Great City Signoff. Volunteers are needed to participate in a citywide effort to remove bandit signs from public ROW. Austin can make a difference. To sign up for the event, contact:
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(Note from CAUSS Admin. These comments are placed on the VA forum at the request of John Bell from No VA. The comments are unedited except for formatting to best utilize uniformity of text. Please direct any comments, or suggestions to John Bell at his email address.)