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Campaign sign law is subject to examination

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Political candidates have a deadline to remove their campaign signs after an election, but in Lewisburg, there's no mention of how early they can be posted.

As a result of that omission, and a question posed by a caller whose name City Codes Officer Greg Lowe says he's forgotten, the issue is to be considered by Lewisburg's Planning and Zoning Commission.

That discussion is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 16, at 4 p.m. at Lewisburg City Hall, 131 E. Church St. Planning commissioners make recommendations to the City Council.

The next election that could be affected by a Council amendment to the zoning code is on Aug. 5. Until then, candidates will be campaigning for the offices of sheriff, county mayor, county commission, some of the school board seats, and nominations for party candidates running for Congress, state representative and governor.

Asked about his routine issuance of the Planning and Zoning Commission agenda, Lowe said, "I had someone ask how long before the election could they put out a sign."

He then read the appropriate section of the zoning ordinance.

"I didn't see anything saying 90 days before the election you can't put signs out," Lowe said. "I think 60-90 days is an appropriate time."

That's consistent with rules in other municipalities, but Lowe deferred to planning commissioners for their preference.

He's also consulted with Kristin Costanzo, a state planner assigned by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development to help Lewisburg.

Provisions of the city's sign ordinance, "as it pertains to on-site product advertising signage" is another subject for the commissioners next week, according to the panel's agenda.

"We're going to look at the sign ordinance in general," Lowe said. "I look at a lot of crazy things in the codes but signs are a continuing source of pain, so we're just going to take a look at the nine pages of the sign ordinance.

"There are people who could care less," he said, "and then there are those who are really bothered by signs."

One provision of Lewisburg's sign law that's a recurring source of "pain" for Lowe - and other codes officers elsewhere because their law includes the same provision - is the sanction against posting of political campaign signs on the public right of way, Lowe said.

Changes that might be recommended to the City Council may make the law "more clear and more stringent," Lowe said.

Jim Bingham is the chairman of Lewisburg's Planning and Zoning Commission.