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    Yard Signs Encroaching on Your Property Rights

    The yearly and very American tradition of yard sales is under attack.  An article in the Potomac Local mentions a Virginia state law making it illegal to “place signs in the right-of-way of all public roads.  These include signs placed on traffic signs, staked in the medians, tacked on utility poles and nailed to fences.” According to the Virginia code if you paint, print, place, put or affix a sign or advertisement within the limits of any highway you will be assessed a civil penalty of $100.  But that is not all.  The Commissioner of Highways may also charge you the cost of removing or obliterating the “public and private nuisance”.  It does not mention what the cost will be.

    But all is not lost!  You can still place a sign for your yard sale on your own property!  You read that right, you can advertise the yard sale with a sign on your property because otherwise people passing by will not be able to determine you are having a yard sale.  But wait, Prince William County has enacted regulations on the size of sign you can place on your property.  No sign greater than two square feet shall be erected without a sign permit being issued by a zoning administrator.

    According to the Prince William County municipal code, an individual requesting a sign permit must place a deposit or guarantee of at least $50. They must provide “scale drawing of the sign showing all dimensions, height, copy, colors, type of material, structural and architectural supports or backgrounds, method and hours of illumination, and a scaled location plan of the site.  In order to advertise your yard sale with a sign larger than two square feet you must call up the zoning administrator (hope he answers), send him all of the details of the sign and then have him perform a site visit to approve of the sign.

    The most shocking part of this regulation, it is not even enforced.  Upon a phone conversation with the sign inspector, I was informed the regulation is only enforced if someone reports the violation (highly unlikely as most people probably do not even know about the regulation) and then the sign inspector will be dispatched to inspect the disturbance call.  Upon arrival the sign has already been removed and there is nothing for the inspector to do.

    This leads me to ask whether this regulation is even necessary.  My view is the regulation is absolutely pointless, but also unjust.  The government is infringing on your property rights by telling you what you can put on it and even how you can put it up if they do approve of letting you put it on your property.  The government should step away and allow individuals to do what they want with the property they own.  Because after all if the government is allowed to tell you what to do with your property is it really yours?