CLAYTON — Signs with the names of town council candidates are dotting street corners across town.
But one candidate is complaining that the town is treating him unfairly when it comes to the placement of his signs.
John McFadden, who owns a Main Street jewelry store, is vying for one of the three council seats up for election on Nov. 5. Last week, the town told him to remove 28 campaign signs he had placed in the median of U.S. 70 Business.
“I talked with someone at the Johnston County Board of Elections, and they told me I was allowed to put the signs in the median,” McFadden said.
Both state and town statutes govern the placement and size of signs, and town planner David DeYoung said neither allows signs in highway medians. “It’s not allowed by either the statute or the town ordinance,” he said.
Neither the state nor the town specifically ban signs in the median, but both sets of rules say a candidate must get permission from the adjacent property owner before placing a sign. Since that’s not possible with signs in the median, the town takes that to mean that signs are not allowed there.
Here’s what the town’s ordinance says: “The permittee (candidate) must obtain permission of any property owner of a residence, business or religious institution fronting the right-of-way where a sign would be erected.” The town took its ordinance from the state statute.
Also, state and local rules say a sign must be at least three feet from the edge of the pavement, and in highway design, the edge of the pavement is actually beyond the limits of paved area, according to the town. That would make it hard to legally place signs in medians.
When the town told McFadden he needed to remove his signs from the median, it offered to do so for him for safety reasons, DeYoung said. “We could use our safety vehicles with flashing lights and yellow vests to remove the signs,” he said.
McFadden accepted the town’s offer, DeYoung said.
Size matters too
To McFadden, it seems the planning department is making up the rules as it goes along and then enforcing them arbitrarily. In an email to town leaders, he complained that other candidates were not respecting town limits on the size of campaign signs.
Under Clayton rules, signs placed in streets’ rights-of-way may be no larger than about two feet by three feet. Signs on private property may be any size.
DeYoung confirmed that McFadden contacted him about right-of-way signs that were too large. DeYoung said the planning department notified those candidates, who either moved their signs or took them down.
“I just want to make sure it’s a fair fight and that the same rules apply to everybody,” McFadden said.