Sign Spam Bounty Proposed

Old School Spam

By Tom Taylor, used with permission.

I despise sign spam, those wireframe-cardboard signs illegally (§18-4.15.7) stuck up along roadways. Anecdotally, the scourge of these eyesores has increased quite a bit in the past year or two. One needs only spend a few minutes driving on secondary roads in northern Virginia to know how really, really bad things could get if nothing changes. So I’m glad to see that Albemarle and VDOT are considering teaming up to solve the problem, paying a $25/sign bounty to folks who pull them up and turn them in. VDOT imposes a $100 fine against the advertised business for each sign posted illegally, so the math works out on this. Here’s hoping that the Board of Supervisors (and City Council!) has the wisdom to make this happen. I’ll be the first in line to collect on it, my car piled high with signs.

09/02 Update: This story just isn’t true. Keep reading for the explanation and the correct story.

County Spokeswoman Lee Catlin tells me that the Free Enterprise Forum’s story isn’t right, which means my story isn’t right. She says that it’s true that Albemarle is working with VDOT to figure out what to do about all of these signs on the side of the road, but that they’re looking to empower building inspectors to remove them, and only in entrance corridors for the city. That would be any sign in VDOT’s right of way, regardless of content. She says that “there may have been some off-hand comments about ‘bounty hunting’, it was never really a serious consideration.” The good news is that the county is open to taking things up a notch, which is fining repeat offenders, as they’re current empowered to do. VDOT emphasizes that private citizens can not remove signs, and that if you do, the owner of the sign can, bizarrely, press charges. (As far as I’m concerned, they’re litter, but that wouldn’t necessarily stop ’em from coming after me.)

The moral of the story? Not all local organizations are created equally. I think we’re spoiled with the really excellent, reliable blogs that we have in town. I took a gamble relying on the Free Enterprise Forum, a group that I don’t much like, but didn’t see why it should mean that I shouldn’t trust with the facts. This isn’t an abdication of my responsibility—it’s my job to get the facts straight in everything I write here—just an explanation of where I erred and how I intend to avoid doing so in the future. Sorry for all the navel-gazing; this is all a very minor thing, and it’s not like anybody’s upset, but I like to get things right and, when I don’t, I like to learn from that mistake.

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