The end of the road for Hamilton County commercial signs

(WISH Photo)

CARMEL, Ind. (WISH) — Hamilton County commissioners are putting a stop to what they call pop-up signs littering the roadways and endangering drivers with a stiff fine that’s been met with some opposition.

Monday commissioners voted unanimously to adopt Ordinance No. 02-12-18-B restricting placement of signs in county road and intersection right of ways. The ordinance states any business, politician, or other commercial sign will be removed from county-maintained roadways and the owner could be fined up to $500 per sign.

“It’s a public safety issue more than it is anything,” said March Heirbrandt, Hamilton County Commissioner. “We’ve had some instances in 2016 where there’s been some near accidents due to view sight issues in intersections where people have put up signs in the right of way and people couldn’t see in the intersection.”

Heirbrandt explained how signs, some as large as 4’x8′, can inhibit a driver from seeing around a corner. He said the signs have simply gotten out of hand and the county needed to take a stronger stance.

Four cities in Hamilton County already have commercial sign restrictions in place for right of ways, but they don’t involve fines, said Heirbrandt. He said at most, the owner receives a slap on the wrist, while taxpayers pay for the crews to remove the signs and keep roads neat.

“We had one particular candidate in 2016 that put out thousands of signs and he never came back to pick them up after numerous attempts to contact that person,” said Heirbrandt.

The ordinance covers all kinds of signs, from home builders to open houses, public causes and political messages, but some say the move is solely politically motivated.

“Signs are a key element for people to get their recognition when they don’t have money,” explained Rick McKinney, a Hamilton County Council member opposing the ordinance. He says road signs helped him greatly when he was a political newcomer, and says the commissioners don’t value that mode of publicity.

“They’re not worried about putting signs out because they have many, many other avenues, whether it’s TV, whether it’s mailers. The signs are the little guy’s way of trying to have a level playing field,” McKinney said. “It’s a bogus argument for the commissioners to say they’re littering, they’re cluttering and it’s a public safety issue. I think those are just invalid reasons.”

McKinney said he would like to see the ordinance repealed, adding that most candidates are good stewards of their signs and can only post them in the 30 days before an election.

Heirbrandt says the ordinance goes into effect in Hamilton County on March 16th. Commissioners say the most affected roads will be 146th Street east from the Boone County line to Marilyn Road, Olio Road from 96th Street north to Campus Parkway, and Campus Parkway east from Marilyn Road to the I-69 bridge.