By Anthony Noel
District 5 city council candidate Michael Overton says he will “address” apparent violations of his campaign signs to North Carolina’s law governing their placement in the rights-of-way of area streets.
After confirming a passerbys’ suspicion that several of Overton’s signs on Greenville Boulevard near Evans Street and on Evans itself appeared to violate size and height limitations, The Guardian sent Overton the following via email last night:
Hello Mr. Overton,
…[we are] seeking your comments for our reporting on political signs.
Under the law, no sign placed in the right of way of a public street may exceed 864 square inches in size (that’s just under 30 x 30 inches) or be more than 42 inches higher than the edge of the pavement. Several of your signs measure approximately 48 x 48 inches (2,304 square inches), nearly three times the maximum size, and are more than twice the maximum height. Please note these size and height limits apply to all signs in rights of way, even when the abutting property owner gives permission. Violations are class one misdemeanors. (I’ve attached for your convenience a letter sent last year to the chairpeople of North Carolina’s three certified political parties; the statute itself is on page 2 of the letter.)
My questions: Are you aware of these apparent violations and do you have any plans to bring them into compliance?
Overton had not replied by 10 a.m. today, but answered his mobile phone when we called to follow-up.
“I have no comment, but I’m going to address it,” Overton said.
Asked to elaborate, he said, “I’m just going to address it, no comment.”
Under North Carolina sentencing guidelines, Class 1 misdemeanors are punishable by 1 to 45 days in jail – suspended for first-time offenders – along with probation and/or community service and/or a fine.
In prior coverage, incumbent Mayor Allen Thomas refused to comment on apparent right-of-way violations for his campaign signs, many of which comprise a 4-by-8-foot sheet of plywood, which is five times the legal limit.
Though the North Carolina Department of Transportation is permitted to remove oversize signs in the right-of-way, NCDOT Traffic Engineer Steve Hamilton says the department only does so when signs “interfere with motorists,” and that NCDOT cannot issue citations.
Pitt County District Attorney Kimberly Robb said, “Citing offenders would be handled by local law enforcement.” The Greenville Guardian contacted the Pitt County Sheriff’s office last Friday asking whether it would issue citations. Its response thus far has been that it is “studying” the statute.