Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church

We Buy Gold! We Buy Cars! Tax Help! Going Out of Business! Lose weight! Vote for (insert name of candidate here)! Temporary signs, which advertise businesses, community events, or political candidates, seem to be epidemic along some of our roadways. In an odd quirk, signage has been deemed by local courts to be personal property, and its removal considered theft. Last July, the Code of Virginia was amended to include political signs subject to removal if they are placed in the public right-of-way.

Temporary signs also are a safety and quality of life issue for many residents. For more than a year, the Board of Supervisors has been grappling with how, legally, to remove such signs, and a solution finally seems to be in the making. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) maintains and controls roadways in Fairfax County, so sign removal is subject to state regulations and agreements. However, Fairfax County must enter into an agreement with the Commissioner of Highways before signs can be removed. A collaborative, voluntary arrangement with VDOT’s Northern Virginia office was nixed last summer by Richmond, and it took many months of negotiating between Commonwealth attorneys and the County Attorney’s office to reach an agreement as required by the Code.

One more requirement must be met before Fairfax County can begin to remove signs from the VDOT right-of-way. The Code also requires that a public hearing be conducted before the Board can vote to approve the agreement. That public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, February 26, 2013, at 4 p.m. at the Fairfax County Government Center, 12000 Government Center Parkway, in Fairfax. Residents and business owners, in favor or opposed to the agreement, may sign up on-line to testify at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/bosclerk/speaker_bos.htm, or call 703-324-3151; TTY 73-324-3903. Messages of support or opposition also may be emailed or sent by regular mail to the Clerk or individual members of the Board of Supervisors. Addresses are available on the county’s Web site, www.fairfaxcounty.gov/government/board/.

The agreement will not affect those who have Adopt-A-Highway responsibilities, and it also will allow signs advertising or providing directions to a “special event” that are erected from Saturday through the following Monday (3 days only), such as realtor signs. If approved, the Community Labor Force (CLF), under the direction of the Sheriff’s Office, would be authorized to remove all signs located in public rights-of-way between Tuesdays and Fridays. A limitation on the days selected ensures that legal “special event” signs would not be removed during a weekend. Removed signs will be stored at a county facility for 5 days, which would allow the owner of the sign to reclaim it, as required by Code. After 5 days, unclaimed signs will be destroyed. The annual cost to the taxpayers for sign removal is estimated to be $150,000.