As Eric Wagner, chairman, Alexandria Planning Commission, noted after the vote, "We'll see you again in three years."
His reference was to a proposed text amendment to the regulations governing the use and placement of political signs in the course of an election cycle. It was directed at the impression that during each election period the debate seems to center more on the aesthetics of political signs than on their purpose. 2003 proved to be no exception.
During the Commission's March meeting a text amendment had been proposed which would limit the placement and time span of candidate political signs. After a lengthy debate and input from a number of citizens and groups, the matter was deferred.
It reappeared on the May docket with substantial changes to the original proposal advanced by the City Department of Planning and Zoning. However, one of the prime areas of concern remained in the reworded version.
That proposal was to restrict signs erected in median rights-of way from 50 to 15 feet from the end of the median. The rationale was based upon perceived traffic safety concerns.
As stated by Katy Cannady, a citizen activist on planning and zoning matters, "I think the way the text has been reworded has solved most of the problems, except for the 50-foot requirement. It's far more than needed for safety."
Her admonition was buttressed by most additional speakers who urged the Commission to maintain the present requirement that signs be no closer to the end of a median than 15 feet. Alison Fryer suggested that if safety was a concern they "should focus on driving safety" not on the signs and their placement.
Jim Harris, a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives noted, "$1,000 can buy 3,000 campaign signs but only a small amount of space in the local media." He urged no limit on the use or placement of such signs.
AS ORIGINALLY presented in March, proposals called for: limiting the time during which political signs could be displayed; restrictions upon political sign locations; restrictions on the number of signs per candidate; expanding the bond required to cover political signs; changing removal rules and proposals dealing with traffic safety.
In the final analysis both the Commission and those speaking agreed with the revised proposals as put forth by the Department of Planning and Zoning except the limitation of "within 50 feet of the end of any street median of a four lane street."
Under current regulations pertaining to political campaign signs: "no signs are permitted within 15 feet of an intersection" and "no signs are permitted within 15 feet of the end of a median strip."
Following the public hearing and input by the Commission, they voted 7-0 to approve the recommended text amendments with the exception that the 50-foot requirement be removed and the existing 15-foot requirements be maintained.