Franklin sign ordinance enforcement, updates discussed

Published 6:11 pm Friday, December 22, 2023

Franklin City Manager Amanda C. Jarratt shared with the Franklin City Council and the public during the council’s Dec. 11 meeting that updates to the city’s sign ordinance were being drafted, and she also initiated an effort to raise awareness in the community about where signs can and cannot go in Franklin.

Amanda C. Jarratt

“(Ward 1) Councilman (Mark R.) Kitchen and I have been talking about some sign ordinance enforcement and some updates to the sign ordinance,” she said. “As you all know we need to update the political sign ordinance anyway, and so those drafts have started.”

A SIGNAGE TREND WITHIN THE CITY

Jarratt also said, “We have seen an influx of people attaching signs to utility poles. This is not allowed.”

Acknowledging that citizens may not be familiar with the city’s sign regulations, she said she just wanted to make sure community members understood that attaching anything to a utility pole is not allowed, whether it is a city of Franklin pole or a pole belonging to one of the city’s partner agencies, like Charter or Verizon.

She indicated that one of the reasons for this regulation is that affixing signs to these poles is a safety issue.

“It weakens the integrity of the pole, and also someone could get hurt in messing with those poles,” she said.

She also highlighted another illegal area for signs.

“We have this discussion a lot, seasonally, but signs may not be in the right-of-way,” she said.

The Code of Virginia defines a public right-of-way as “any area over which the public has a general privilege to travel.”

Jarratt offered a more specific example during her report to the council, noting that a city right-of-way includes “that area between the road and the sidewalk.”

“If people want to advertise, there are regulations regarding that,” she said, “but it cannot be on public property — it cannot be at city parks, it cannot be in our right-of-way, … you cannot attach it to a utility pole.”

WHAT ABOUT POLITICAL SIGNS?

Ward 2 Councilman Ray Smith said, “Where do political signs fall in that group?”
“Political signs are not allowed to be attached to utility poles either,” Jarratt said. “They are not allowed to be on public property or in the right-of-way. So that rule applies to all political signs.”

She then took the opportunity granted by Smith’s question to give a brief preview of some of the changes coming to the city’s sign ordinance.

“What we’re going to be also updating in our sign ordinance changes are the new regulations related to timing associated with political signs,” she said. “So that regulation that we had previously that limited how early they could go up, and the size, needs to be updated to today’s code section.”

Following up on his previous question, Smith said, “So you can’t put a political sign on a street corner?”

“You cannot put a political sign on a street corner, no, sir,” Jarratt said. “It has to be on private property.”

She said that when city staff can remove illegally placed signs, it will.

WHO CAN REMOVE ILLEGALLY PLACED SIGNS?

Mark R. Kitchen

Kitchen said, “Who has the authority to remove the signs from the utility poles?”

“Anyone can take them off,” Jarratt said, noting this is not something only community development staff can do. “So anyone can remove it, and anyone can remove a sign from the right-of-way.”

She expressed her hope that word will get out about where signs can and cannot be placed.

“You’ll have an update to the sign ordinance coming to you over the next few weeks,” she told council members.

In an interview with The Tidewater News, Kitchen explained that his main concern with the illegally placed signs is the appearance of the city.

“Many citizens have voiced their concerns,” he said.