COUNTY OF ALBEMARLE
Partnership with VDOT for County Removal of Illegal Advertising Signs in the Highway Right-of-Way
Board Approval of Agreement with Commonwealth Transportation Commissioner
Messrs. Tucker, Foley, Davis, Herrick, Graham, Schlothauer, and Ms. McCulley
LEGAL REVIEW: Yes
December 3, 2008
ACTION: X INFORMATION:
The proliferation of signs in highway rights-of-way is both distracting and visually unattractive. Multiple unpermitted signs along designated entrance corridors detract from the very purposes of entrance corridors, including conserving the County’s scenic resources and enhancing economic vitality and the quality of life.
This issue has been an ongoing County concern. In the summer and fall of 2005, staff conducted a pilot program to reduce the number of unpermitted signs. That program involved five sign sweeps, general public information, and individual letters to those responsible for the specific unpermitted signs. Because education and voluntary compliance had limited success, County staff is now seeking to be authorized to actually remove illegal advertisements, which only VDOT can do currently. This approach has been successful in such other localities as Henrico and Chesterfield counties and the City of Lynchburg.
Virginia Code § 33.1-373 allows VDOT to remove and impose a $100 civil fine for each illegal advertisement in highway rights-of-way. Virginia Code § 33.1-375.1(D) in turn enables VDOT to enter into agreements authorizing localities to act as agents for VDOT in removing illegal advertisements.
Staff has prepared a proposed Agreement with VDOT for the removal of illegal advertisements. The Agreement.has been reviewed by and is acceptable to VDOT.
Please note that the law and Agreement apply only to illegal advertisements and not to all signs. By law, an “advertisement” is defined as:
“any writing, printing, picture, painting, display, emblem, drawing, sign, or similar device which is posted or displayed outdoors on real property and is intended to invite or to draw the attention or to solicit the patronage or support of the public to any goods, merchandise, real or personal property, business, services, entertainment, or amusement manufactured, produced, bought, sold, conducted, furnished, or dealt in by any person; the term shall also include any part of an advertisement recognizable as such.”
Note also that the 1993 General Assembly explicitly removed political signs from this definition of “advertisement,” meaning that political signs may not be removed under this law or proposed Agreement. While VDOT still has the authority to remove any unauthorized sign from VDOT rights-of-way, Virginia Code § 33.1-373 and the proposed Agreement only provides the County with the authority to remove signs that are advertisements from VDOT rights-of-way.
This program will be conducted in partnership with VDOT; with both VDOT and the County responding to the complaints that each receives. County staff will prioritize and focus on illegal advertising along designated entrance corridors.
Prior to beginning advertisement removal in January 2009, staff plans to provide public information, including a press release and an informational letter to various groups like the Chamber of Commerce, the realtors’ association, and the North 29 Business Council.
Because this program will be conducted by existing staff (primarily Building Inspectors) as part of their regular duties, this work can occur without the need for overtime (at current building permit levels), and is therefore unlikely to have a budget impact.
Staff recommends that the Board approve the proposed Agreement with the Commonwealth Transportation Commissioner (VDOT) for the removal of illegal advertisements (Attachment A).
A – Proposed Agreement between Commonwealth Transportation Commissioner and the Board
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