Residents could face tougher fines for signs

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - If you are a business owner in East Baton Rouge Parish, an ordinance introduced during Wednesday's night's Metro Council meeting could change your advertising.

For many, the plastic signs tacked onto telephone poles or stacked on top of one another along city streets are a nuisance.

"The municipalities can put up bus stop signs, direction signs, stop signs, safety signs," said Councilman Matt Watson of District 11. "They're the ones that put signs in the right of way, nobody else."

Watson and Councilman Dwight Hudson of District 9 introduced an ordinance to control the growing number of "illegal signs" placed on city property. Watson said the signs placed in the median are, "just as bad as litter or tires and they're blocking the view. They're at every street corner."

Not only could these signs be considered an eyesore, but East Baton Rouge officials said they're illegal. "The problem that we've got is, business owners that continually make these types of signs, put them out in the roadway," Councilman Watson explained. "Every time you go to clean them up, they see you clean them up and just put more back out."

Watson said he's had plans to create harsher penalties for people putting signs in the wrong place since he came into office because the signs "make our community less attractive." Watson added he constantly receives complaints from people in the community, wanting a change. "If we had a nice, clean roadway it really sends a good message to the folks in the community. It sends a good message to people that visit our community."

Right now, residents face a fine that's no less than $100 and no more than $500, but Watson said for habitual offenders, the penalties aren't severe enough.

"We're moving it to a minimum of $200, up to a maximum of $1,000, which is at the discretion of the judge and/or six months in jail, which is also at the discretion of the judge," he added.

However, Watson said just because you're cited, doesn't mean you're automatically found guilty.

"Anybody who gets written up for something will be able to have their day in court, speak in front of the judge," he explained.

Officials said even with a permit, hanging signs on city property is not legal. Watson said if you want to promote a business or support your child in an accomplishment, they encourage it, but look no further than your front lawn.

"Between the sidewalk and the house, you can put anything up you want. Between the sidewalk and the street is the right of way and certainly, any poles in the right of way don't belong to anyone but the municipality," Watson said.

There will be a public hearing during the Metro Council meeting on March 14, 2018. The council will vote on the ordinance following the hearing.

If the ordinance passes, sign companies will be required to post the new laws in their business to make sure all customers are aware of the change.

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