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Unauthorized signage in Scituate causes problems

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  November 30, 2012 04:05 PM

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Illegal lawn signs have been popping up around Scituate like spring daisies, but if town officials have any say, the practice won’t continue for long.

According to Building Commissioner Neil Duggan, unauthorized signage is a periodic problem in town, and has been very prevalent as of late.

“I’m not going to mention the group, but a particular civic group in town literally littered the town with their signs along roadways, roundabouts, town property, schools, everywhere,” Duggan said in a phone interview on Friday.

The signs had gone up over the past weekend, and town officials were out by Tuesday taking them down, Duggan said.

And while the town has removed all those signs, the group isn’t the only one that has been plopping down signage, putting visual impediments on major roads, marking town greens with advertisements, or creating eyesores on front lawns.

The problem caused town officials to release a reminder on the town website, cautioning residents against the practice. Yet Duggan isn’t sure if it will be enough to solve the problem.

“It’s ongoing. It’s kind of like weeds, they crop up and you have to deal with it. But I think it’s more a problem of people not being aware of the sign bylaw,” Duggan said.

According to Duggan, the town’s bylaw allows groups to put up signs advertising certain functions, but organizations first need to ask permission.

“Had they asked, I would have allowed them to put up some, but not hundreds,” Duggan said. “It’s not that we don’t allow them, but … we try to keep it so it’s low profile, but still so they get their word out.”

While Duggan can authorize some signage, other signs on town greens require permission of the town administrator or Board of Selectmen.

Duggan typically issues a warning to first-time offenders, but putting up illegal signage can bring with it a $25 fine per sign.

Town officials will also confiscate the illegal material and put it in the basement of Town Hall until the organization comes to pick the signs up.

“We will accommodate them, but they need to talk to us,” Duggan said.

Although the town does allow for some signage on public roadways and greens, the solution typically is simply to put signs up on private property, Duggan said. Another good rule of thumb is to have signs at least 300 feet apart.

Otherwise, the signs can become problematic, especially at a busy intersection like the roundabout.

“Depending on the height, you can block the line of sight of oncoming traffic,” Duggan said. “There are five entrances onto that roundabout, so if a sign is placed in the wrong location or too high up, it can block your vision. But I’ve even had real estate signs put on the corner … where they do block the line of sight of a car coming on to the [roadway],” Duggan said.

Those interested in putting up signs should contact Duggan directly.

“If it’s a legitimate civic event, we can discuss where we’d like to see them and the numbers,” Duggan said.

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