City of Hartford responds to complaints over illegally placed signs

July 3, 2017 – Hartford, WI – The City of Hartford has begun taking a more direct approach to the growing problem of illegally placed signs within City owned properties or city right-of-way.  Starting last week, city staff started pulling or moving signs which were illegally placed within the right-of-way or on city parkland.  Signs for help wanted, rummage sales, retails sails, services rendered or realtor open houses were removed in an attempt to clean up what had once again become a problem throughout the city.

“This is not the first time we have had to do this, nor is this law unique to Hartford.  Every community has some sort of laws regarding keeping the city right of way free from any distractions, visual blockages, or possible liabilities,” City Administrator Steve Volkert said.  “Every so often, the amount of signs starts to build up as a few place them illegally, then a few more and it just keeps growing.”

The normal procedure whenever an illegal sign is placed in these areas if for the city to take the soft approach of removing the sign and contact the owner to ask them to remove all signs or move them as to not be illegal.  Then after a week, if all illegally placed signs are not removed, the City will fine the owners and remove the signs themselves.  “We truly don’t have time to be patrolling every street for illegally placed signs,” Volkert said, “so we nicely ask that the owners move them.”

Most recently, more and more signs were popping up so the city instructed staff to pull any signs they saw during their normal travels throughout the city.  Many of those signs were either moved in from the curb or removed and taken to the city garage for keeping.

Placing signs of this nature is not illegal as long as they are placed on private property with the property owners consent.  The easiest way to determine where the City right-of-way ends and private property starts is by using the sidewalk or 10 feet in from the back of the curb.  If the sign is placed inside the sidewalk, it’s usually good.

“We want our city to look clean and uncluttered, and would prefer not to have our staff confiscating these signs,” said Volkert.  “If you are going to put up rummage sale or business signs, make sure they are not placed within the city right-of-way.”

The City ordinance does not allow signs close to the curb for safety reasons.  1) Signs can blow off and cause traffic issues and liabilities to cars, 2) signs can block the clear vision of turning vehicles when placed on corners, 3) signs can distract drivers taking their eyes off the road to read.  This law is similar to all other communities throughout the state.

City Hall was receiving several complaints from businesses and residents alike on all the signs illegally placed.  The city plans on continuing to pull signs through the summer whenever they come across any of them to hopefully curtail this issue and help improve the clutter which they were causing.

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