Chandler looks to crack down on 'bandit' road signs
The Arizona Republic by Edythe Jensen - Feb. 9, 2009 11:03 AM
Exploding numbers of illegal roadside signs have Chandler looking at ways to stop them -- including tougher enforcement and volunteer cleanup crews.
"We certainly understand the economic conditions, but we still need to prevent blight," said Rick Brzuchalski, code enforcement manager. He estimates the number of illegal signs - including those propped along sidewalks to bring customers into struggling local shops and restaurants - have doubled since last year. But with his staff of seven and growing numbers of complaints about weeds on vacant properties, Brzuchalski said a comprehensive sign crackdown would be difficult. Complicating the job is the difficulty officials have finding the business or individuals responsible for the signs, which usually advertise Web sites or toll-free phone numbers with no clear ownership, he said.
Appearance isn't the city's only concern. Brzuchalski said illegal signs distract motorists who try to copy information while they're driving and can blow into roadway causing accidents or damage to vehicles and tires.
"They're called bandit signs for a reason. Bandits are roadway criminals," he said.
Greg Wilson,owner of The Sign Bandit based in Ormond Beach Florida, said demand for inexpensive roadside signs is high and their cost low compared to other forms of advertising. His service creates and places signs without permits in cities across the country, including Chandler. "Phoenix is a hot area and laws are fairly liberal in your neck of the woods," he said, adding his company won't place signs where business owners are fined for using them. And he says he monitors weather reports to make sure workers don't place signs when they're likely to blow away.
They're popular with sellers of real estate and investments, debt consolidators, loan modifiers and dating services, Wilson said. Some of his clients request signs that look like they're hand-written. Business can get 20 or more calls from 100 signs, which is considered a good response, he said, adding his workers were installing 13,000 roadside temporary signs across the country on Friday.
Chandler requires permits for most signs, but not yard sale or political signs. However, the city code says officials should give written notice to the owner before removal unless the sign is deemed "unsafe, defective or a traffic hazard." Repeat offenders who re-install signs after being told to remove them can be prosecuted and fined.
In 2006 under previous code enforcement manager Gregg Carr Chandler conducted a one-day sweep of city streets, removing hundreds of illegal signs and pounded into the ground and taped on utility poles. At the time Carr said he didn't believe a one-time event would halt the practice and it hasn't.
Several years ago Mesa and Gilbert teamed up to rid their cities of illegal weight loss signs posted by Herbalife distributors. Many of those distributors were prosecuted and fined and the company subsequently ordered distributors not to advertise that way.
Brzuchalski said he is collecting information from the signs, trying to track down the businesses who advertise on them before he recommends action. The first step would likely be communication and warnings, he said.
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Chandler to get tough on ''bandit signs''
by Edythe Jensen - Apr. 14, 2009 11:39 AM
The Arizona Republic
Chandler code enforcers will start getting tough on exploding numbers of illegal roadside signs this weekend, tagging and confiscating the "bandit" placards known to distract drivers and blight the landscape.
.....Greg Wilson, owner of The Sign Bandit based in Ormond Beach, Fla., said earlier this year that his company creates and places signs throughout the country, including Chandler. They're popular with sellers of real estate and investments, debt consolidators, loan modifiers and dating services, he said.
"Phoenix is a hot area and laws are fairly liberal in your neck of the woods," Wilson said in February, adding that his company won't place signs where business owners are fined for using them. A phone message left for Wilson on Tuesday was not immediately returned.
In 2006. under previous code-enforcement manager Gregg Carr, Chandler conducted a
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Chandler's push to eliminate bandit signs gets results
by Edythe Jensen - Jun. 25, 2009 09:39 AM The Arizona Republic
A push to keep "bandit" signs off Chandler streets is getting results and some volunteer help.
Two months after city code enforcement crews started slapping bright orange violation stickers on offending signs, then uprooting them a day or two later, the number of illegal placards has plummeted, said code-enforcement manager Rick Brzuchalski. The first confiscation in April brought in 280 illegal signs; last weekend there were only 22. Since the program started, crews have removed and dismantled about 1,500 signs for recycling, he said.
To help with a job that takes about 36 staff hours a week, a police volunteer started riding with a code inspector on Saturdays when signs are removed, he said. Growing numbers of the unsightly and distracting advertisements, which Brzuchalski calls "litter on a stick," prompted the city action. Most of them tout out-of-town businesses or services and all lack required permits.
Judy Register, neighborhood resources director, said the effort has gotten such a positive public response that her department will continue it in spite of budget cuts and the loss of a staff position.
Brzuchalski, a former Chandler police commander, said he has been surprised when passing motorists pull over to thank him. "One guy reached out of his truck window to shake my hand," he said.
Previous efforts in Chandler and neighboring cities were brief confiscation sweeps with no follow-up, and the signs re-appeared. "You have to have a commitment" to prevent them from cropping up again, Brzuchalski said. "We're actually making visual difference in the community. The city put so much into plants and landscaping. With the signs gone, these areas are beautiful again . . . We are going to try to be a bandit-free city as much as possible."
Since news has gotten out about Chandler's efforts, many national sign installers are avoiding the city and some call to ask if the city enforces the sign law along freeways, Brzuchalski said. Chandler has Arizona Department of Transportation permission to confiscate signs along freeway entrance ramps through the city, he said.