Illegal signs are a continuing problem

By JoAnna Swanson • Guest Columnist

There are all kinds of signs — signs of the times; signs of the future (omens); traffic signs; stop signs and, of course, the ubiquitous election signs!

We all are used to seeing signs sprouting everywhere during an election period. These signs, fortunately, are removed shortly after the election.

Lately, the problem for Haywood County and particularly Waynesville, is the number of signs that are not removed and become illegal signage. Because a proliferation of signs soon becomes “sign pollution,” it’s important for all residents to understand the rules regarding sign placement and duration.

It would be impossible in this article to incorporate all the official language of the rules, so here is a condensed version to clarify the main gist. Although this article involves Waynesville ordinances, they probably are similar for all towns in the county. Please just check with your individual town manager.

It also is very important to know that all signs are prohibited on any D.O.T. maintained highway.

Since most sign offenders mean no harm but simply are not aware of the laws, it’s hoped this explanation will be helpful. To make this all easier to understand and absorb, this article will be sorted into categories.

Here are the general ordinances:

• Temporary signs are allowed for yard sales, real estate, mobile vendors and special events of a temporary nature.  Signs permitted must be limited to the time period of the project and installed no more than 10 days before an event.  They must be removed within 10 days of event completion.

• No signs may be placed on any town property or park without the express permission of the town manager. Signs may not be placed within a town maintained sidewalk or greenway.

• Off-premise signs are prohibited.

• Signs must not create a safety hazard to the use of public or private right-of-way and may not interfere with the line of sight of motorists. The signs at the intersection of the Asheville Road (Business 23) and N.C. 209, placed on the property beneath the Super 6 Motel, are not legal.

• Signs should be placed at a minimum of three feet from the edge of the pavement.

• Signs may not be attached to utility poles or trees.

• Signs should be limited to six square feet in area and four feet in height.

• Signs may not be illuminated.

• Temporary signs on private property must comply with the same requirements as permanent signs of the same type.           

Moveable signs are prohibited, as are banner signs within any district listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

There are differing regulations for vehicular signs. Signs indicating the name of the owner of a business printed or affixed to a vehicle are permitted. However, when not being operated, the vehicle should be parked in such a manner as to minimize visibility from the street.

For signs at ball fields, check with officials at each town hall.

For flags, all of them — except for American flags — are counted towards the maximum square footage for other attached signs. There can be one flag for every 25 linear feet of building frontage.

Now for political signs — were you waiting for this?

These signs may be displayed 30 days prior to the beginning of “one stop” early voting and concluding 10 days after the primary or the main Election Day.

• No signs may be placed in the right-of-way of an access highway and no signs closer than three feet from the edge of a pavement or road.

• No signs may obscure motorist visibility at intersections.

• No sign should obscure or replace another sign (so don’t remove your opponent’s sign).

• No sign may be attached to a utility pole.

• There may not be any illuminated signs.

• Signs cannot be higher than 42 inches higher than the pavement or larger than 16 square feet.

If you have questions, please consult your individual towns or the county manager.

(JoAnna Swanson can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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