County to Fine Sign Spammers

Albemarle County has gotten permission to enforce the state ban on those horrible signs by the side of the road advertising quasi-scams and fly-by-night operations, Jenn McDaniel reports for NBC 29. County inspectors—who would normally be inspecting buildings, but there’s not much of that going on right now—will be pulling the signs up and fining the advertisers $100/apiece. The new practice goes into effect on February 17, and sign spammers who don’t pull their signs up by then will be fined. It was a mild problem a few years ago, but it’s getting worse every month. Those wretched “Homes from the 300s” signs that litter northern Virginia are starting to appear along 29N, since developers are desperate to sell off their overbuilt subdivisions.

McDaniel called some of the illegal advertisers, who had the balls to gripe about having to find a legal method of advertising. I should spray paint “” on their front door and then express surprise when they complain. Somebody remind me—on February 17, I need encourage folks to submit photos of signs still illegally posted in the right-of-way. We can save the county a little work and help fill the county’s coffers.

19 thoughts on “County to Fine Sign Spammers”

  1. This is a great way for citizens to become involved in an anti-litter effort. If you see an illegal sign just pull it up and throw it into the nearest dumpster. Oh, and remember that political signs are also included as roadsite litter.

  2. @jogger: No, I think it’s best to let the county handle the signs. After all, the fine should be enough to cover any tax dollars you’d be spending towards the effort. Summary: Let the spammers pay some of your taxes.

  3. There are several signs like that leading up to the neighborhood I live in and even one above the sign to enter the neighborhood, it says “homes from the ____.” I wish this law being enforced would include taking down that sign. I don’t like everyone that visits knowing the base price of homes in my neighborhood.

  4. A couple of years ago I was researching the legality of just ripping those signs down myself. It turns out that some guy was sued—and lost—for doing that somewhere in northern Virginia. I find that stunning, since it’s clearly littering, and I can’t fathom why we’d punish somebody for cleaning up trash. But the argument used by the sign spammer was that it wasn’t litter, it was said spammer’s property, and cleaning it up amounted to theft. I can’t track the case down right now, but if anybody else does, I’d appreciate a citation.

    Anyhow, I’d recommend not removing signs yourself, at least based on my understanding of how the law can be interpreted. Some of y’all might remember how that “WE BUY HOUSES” sign spammer insisted that he had ever right to staple his signs 20′ up telephone poles. (And I think we all now know that anybody can file a lawsuit or a subpoena, regardless of merit.) You could just as easily find yourself sued or the subject of a criminal complaint for having the temerity to help to clean up your own city.

    I’m with Tim: let the spammers defray your tax burden.

  5. I have returned the many phone books dumped near our mailbox to the sales office of the offending directory. They were not pleased

  6. Sometimes you just have to take the bull by the horns. If you see a sign on the public right of way and can take it down, then go for it. I know I do this all the time and I dare one of the SOB’s, spammers or whatever to say anything to me. If the sign is on public property it is in the public domain and belongs to all and not just one. True story, several years ago I spotted a guy putting up signs along the rigt of way on 29N. I followed him all the way to the airport road taking his signs down as he put them up. As he drove off continuing up 29N I took the last one down. He never knew.

  7. Jogger,

    While I admire your perseverance, you’ve got more time on your hands than some of us.

  8. Jogger,
    That is a great story, and I totally identify, although I haven’t pulled as many as you have.
    But to do that now is missing the point… For every sign that you let the county pull, the sign spammer will be fined $100. If we pull em… no fine.
    Let’s see how the system works (and if the county enforces it). It seems like it’s an easy win for us and the county if they do.

  9. What happens if a shady business creates signs that advertises for their competitor. Let’s say they put up a 1000 of these signs. They’ll spend about $2000 making them and it will cost their competitor $100,000 in fines. Which most likely will put them out of business. How can this be enforced?

  10. Steve:

    You’re right, that’s a problem.

    Also, if I kill somebody, and make it look like somebody else did it, that’s a problem, too. But we still enforce the laws against killing folks.

  11. Hawkins Dale:
    In your example, you are at least innocent until proven guilty and have you the chance to defend yourself in court. In sign spamming, you are guilty until you prove you’re innocent. That’s a problem.

  12. I don’t see any reason why that’s so, Steve. Do you have some reason to think that this is different than any other violation that results in a fine? If you park your car in a handicapped spot and then get a ticket, you’re fined. That’s not being presumed guilty, that’s just leading off with the fine. You’re free to challenge that fine, and the same is surely true with the county’s sign ban.

  13. Waldo:
    A vehicle has a clear owner and they mostly know who was driving it when it got ticketed. There is no clear owner of signs. Anyone can have them printed and anyone can have them placed in prohibited areas.

  14. ….Just as car owners can beat a speed camera (DC area) ticket, if they challenge it, and you can show on the photo that you were not the driver.
    Someone has to purchase the signs, and due process allows you to challenge that you are not the one who did. One example can be that the sign shops usually have their name in fine print somewhere on the sign. It doesn’t seem that it would be difficult to get in touch with them, and track the purchase info to show that you are not the one who ordered them (and who did).
    It also seems pretty far fetched that someone would go to the expense of buying 1000 of these signs (They’re not all that cheap from what I heard from someone I know that used them for a yard sale.) just to screw with someone, on the very likely chance that they could beat the fine.

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