County Sign Legislation
On August 2, 2016, the Montgomery County Council will vote on ill-conceived legislation sponsored by County Councilmember George Leventhal that would prohibit placing signs in public rights of way. Not only will this stifle political speech, but it will hurt small businesses and homebuilders who use these spaces to advertise their businesses. Below is a letter explaining the issue in great detail.
To Whom It May Concern,
I’ve attached the proposed sign legislation sponsored by County Councilmember George Leventhal. In addition I’ve attached a letter I sent to the Council as a member of Renewing Montgomery voicing our objections to this poorly conceived bill. You can also visit the Renewing Montgomery Facebook page or our website: http://www.renewingmontgomery.org/ for more information.
It seems that in an attempt to eliminate political signs, Mr. Leventhal’s proposal will eliminate any sign in the right of way and create fines and enforcement authority to remove all signs in the right of way. The right of way is typically the grass area between the curb and the sidewalk or just behind the sidewalk.
As I homebuilder I oppose this legislation from a business perspective as it will prohibit open house directions, builder signs, and construction permit signs unless they are on private property. I believe most people in the community want to be aware if there is an open house, who is the builder, and does the builder have all the required permits. Currently this information is easily obtainable. Pushing these signs onto private property will hide them behind the required black silt fence making them difficult to see when driving by.
However I believe this legislation will also be bad for every community. Citizen Associations could not put up a meeting notification sign, or a Halloween parade sign, or a Labor Day picnic sign. Residents could not put up signs for block parties, yard sales, or birthday parties.
In addition churches could not use the right of way to advertise their events and schools could not promote their events such as school plays, charitable drives, or sporting events.
The bill would also prohibit any political signs in the right of way, which may even be an issue regarding freedom of speech.
In our opinion we think this legislation must be withdrawn until all the impacted parties have a chance to weigh in. Currently this bill is up for discussion on August 2nd, a time when most people will be on vacation and probably not interested in testifying. We’re afraid Mr. Leventhal is on a fast track to get this bill passed before the next election cycle.
We encourage all stakeholders to express their concerns to the Council before August 2nd. It would be even more effective if you requested a meeting with Councilman Leventhal to offer your input. Otherwise we think it will sail through the Council and there will be a lot of angry residents getting fined by the County for posting a harmless and useful sign in the right of way. Your consideration of this request is appreciated.