Naperville considering new limits to 'obnoxious' election signs

  • Clutter from election signs is nothing new, as this photo from 2011 demonstrates. But now Naperville officials are considering ways to reduce the amount of time such signs are up.

      Clutter from election signs is nothing new, as this photo from 2011 demonstrates. But now Naperville officials are considering ways to reduce the amount of time such signs are up. Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer/2011

 
 
Updated 5/21/2015 2:05 PM

After a historic election in which all eight city council seats were up at once in Naperville, officials are considering new regulations on campaign signs.

Council member Kevin Coyne proposed limiting the length of time signs can be posted to 30 days before an election. He said this could help with some of the visual clutter the city experienced earlier this year when 20 candidates were seeking eight seats on the council and four people were vying to be mayor.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"By everyone's admission there was an inordinate amount of signage," Coyne said. "It became obnoxious."

The problem became especially bad on commercial properties at the corners of major intersections, where dozens of signs were posted.

"When there's that many, no one is benefiting from it politically; they all just kind of blend together," Coyne said.

City Attorney Jill Wilger said the legal department first will review whether the city constitutionally is allowed to regulate signs on private commercial property. Mayor Steve Chirico said he would support an election sign time limit if it can be done legally.

Council member Paul Hinterlong said the idea could run against free speech rights if it applies to homeowners.

But Coyne said he thinks time restrictions for signs on commercial properties should be possible because other nearby municipalities already have such regulations.

Lisle, for example, restricts campaign sign placement on nonresidential property to no more than 30 days before an election. Candidates in Downers Grove are only allowed to post campaign signs with the property owner's permission.

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In Naperville, campaigns signs must be less than 8 square feet and less than 5 feet tall. They must be posted outside of all public rights of way and at least 20 feet back from an intersection.

But each election season, Coyne said code enforcement employees have to spend time checking whether posted signs are too large or posted in the wrong place.

Creating a 30-day pre-election period could decrease the amount of staff time spent on sign issues, he said.

If a time limit won't work, Coyne said he'd like to look into other ways to decrease the number of signs across the city.

The topic will come up during a later city council meeting after the legal department has researched regulation options.

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