A divided Fredericksburg City Council has approved a revised ordinance on temporary yard signs.
The ordinance approved Tuesday allows up to 32 square feet of signs—an increase from the 20 square feet initially proposed—at a home or business, and eliminates a section of the former law that limited campaign signs to 60 days before an election and 10 days after it ends. The increase in signs allowed is designed to accommodate a decision to move city elections from May to November, when state and national races are also on the ballot.
The ordinance passed 4–3, with council members Kerry Devine, Jason Graham, Tim Duffy and Mayor Mary Katherine Greenlaw voting for it. Councilmen Matt Kelly, Chuck Frye Jr. and Billy Withers opposed it, just as they did when the initial ordinance was voted on after a first reading last month.
“I just don’t understand why we’re getting in the business of telling people what they can do with their own yard that doesn’t have to do with public safety or public health,” Kelly said. “I would not want to put the burden of [city] staff to go around and have to deal with this issue.”
Marne Sherman, the city’s community planning and building development administrator, said she’ll be in charge of enforcing the sign ordinance. The ordinance also requires signs to be in good condition and structurally safe.
Sherman would respond to complaints and take photographs of offending residences or businesses. She said last month that she also may drive by a residence or business, notice non-compliance, take pictures and then send a letter warning the resident or business owner to make the required changes within a 10-day period.
Frye said he voted against the ordinance for personal reasons.
Frye noted that there was a recent shooting death involving gun violence in the city. Tyriek Powell was killed during an exchange of gunfire with Arturo Barnes on Fall Hill Avenue in the city last week. Barnes was wounded.
Frye said when such incidents occur in the city, he purchases signs in bulk condemning gun violence.
“I can’t limit myself on expressing something like that. … When these things happen I don’t have any other way to express myself or draw attention to it,” Frye said. “All we have is our yard sometimes.”
Duffy disagreed with Kelly’s stance that the government shouldn’t regulate an individual’s personal space. He noted that there are rules and regulations put in place by the government for a variety of reasons.
“We could fine people for their grass getting long,” Duffy said. “It seems we can have limits that you can’t put 100 yard signs in your yard and they’ll be blowing down the block.”
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