Stories from the NFCCA Newsletter, the “Northwood News”

Northwood News ♦ October 2015

‘Signs, Signs, Everywhere There’re [Election] Signs’

By Linda S. Perlman

Blocking out the scenery, breaking my mind....

Primary election season is upon us and political signs have sprouted like dandelions in yards and along public streets.

Political and other signs are required to comply with the Montgomery County Sign Ordinance, Article 59-F of the Montgomery County Code, which regulates the size, location, height, and construction of signs.

Political signs located on private property in residential zones are considered temporary signs that do not require a permit provided the sign is not displayed for more than 30 days (the date of installation is supposed to be written on the sign).  Temporary signs may only be placed on private property with the permission of the property owner.  There is no limit on the number of temporary political signs in a residential zone, but the total sign area may not exceed 10 square feet.  Temporary signs also cannot be more than five feet high (measured from the ground to the top edge of the sign), must be set back at least five feet from the property line, and may not be illuminated.

Explicit rules dictate where — and for how long — political signs may appear in a yard.

There are different size, height, and setback regulations for temporary signs in commercial zones.

Political signs placed in the public right-of-way require a limited duration sign permit from the Montgomery County Department of Permitting Services.  A maximum of four signs are allowed per candidate.  The requirements for a limited duration sign in the public right-of-way include:

  1. the sign can only be displayed on weekends (such as a real estate “open house” sign) or for 14 consecutive days;
  2. the total sign area is limited to 5 square feet;
  3. the sign height is limited to 30 inches;
  4. the sign must be placed at least 100 feet from any intersection and 50 feet from any driveway;
  5. the sign must be at least two feet behind a curb or at least six feet from the edge of the paved roadway if there is no curb; and
  6. no signs are allowed in a road median.

Maryland law does not allow political or advertising signs in the median, along the shoulder, or anywhere else within the state highway right-of-way.  State highways are identified by a route number (such as Route 29).

Some political and other signs are prohibited outright.  These include signs attached to utility poles (except for signs erected on utility poles by a government agency or utility in the performance of its public duties), traffic signs, traffic lights, and trees in the public right-of-way.  Other signs that are not allowed are roof signs, obstructive signs, unsafe signs, and signs placed unlawfully in the public right-of-way.

Sign ordinance violators can be issued a $500 civil citation for each sign and illegal signs in the public right-of-way can be removed.  Political candidates should be aware that both the candidate and the sign installer can be charged with violating the sign regulations.

Candidates are required to remove their political signs from election polling sites promptly after the polls close.  Political signs at other locations must be removed in compliance with the sign ordinance requirements (i.e., no later than 30 days after display of the sign for a temporary political sign on private property).

Do this!  Don’t do that!  Can’t you read the signs?

[Lyrics from “Signs” by Canadian group Five Man Electrical Band, released in 1971 on their “Good-Byes and Butterflies” album.]   ■

   © 2015 NFCCA  [Source:]