New sign ordinance restricts placement

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The Hamilton County Commissioners recently amended the county’s sign ordinance to eliminate confusion across city lines.

The amendment unanimously passed Dec. 19. It  prohibits the placement of all nonpublic safety signs within public rights of way in unincorporated areas of Hamilton County, along roads and bridges maintained by Hamilton County and on land owned by the county.

Hamilton County streets are defined in the new ordinance as all public streets within unincorporated areas of Hamilton County, 146th Street east from the Boone County line to Marilyn Road, Campus Parkway east from Marilyn Road to the I-69 bridge, Olio Road from 96th Street north to, and including, the roundabout at Campus Parkway and any bridge of more than 20 feet in length within Hamilton County other than bridges crossing I-69, U.S. 31, Ind. 37 and Keystone Parkway.

Hamilton County municipalities except Carmel are expected to amend their sign ordinances at upcoming council meetings and adopt the county’s version so the ordinances are the same.  Carmel’s ordinance is already similar to the county’s.

The new ordinance goes into effect Feb. 1.

Commissioner Mark Heirbrandt said he knew the county had to take action when, in 2016, a 4-foot-by 4-foot sign in the median on 146th Street almost caused an accident when it blocked the view of an oncoming car, and a vehicle full of high school students was almost hit. 

Typically, signs of that nature are political signs, Heirbrandt said.

“What’s happened with all the elections is there’s a lot of confusion in regard to what people can do in city limits and outside of city limits because each city had a different sign ordinance,” Heirbrandt said. “When we met with all the mayors, everybody concluded we need a sign ordinance that’s consistent and clear to everybody about what you can do and what you can’t do.”

The amended ordinance outlines penalties.

“We continue to get a lot of complaints about people just randomly (putting up) signs, cluttering areas and never coming to pick them up. They just leave them there,” Heirbrandt said. “We have to pick them up, and we have to dispose of them, and there’s a cost to that.”

Heirbrandt said the commissioners passed the new ordinance after the general election in November for a reason.

“We didn’t want others to feel like it was done for a political purpose or why it was done in the way it was,” he said.

Hamilton County Commissioner President Steve Dillinger said illegally placed signs cause several problems. 

“When it comes right down to it, this is really a matter of safety,” he said. “Poorly placed signs increase visual clutter, distract drivers and make it difficult to obey street and traffic signs.”

Traffic, utility and construction signs approved by the Board of Commissioners or the Hamilton County Highway Dept. are not prohibited by the new ordinance. Moreover, signs still can be placed on private property with the consent of the property owner. 

If a sign is in violation, it will be taken to the Hamilton County Highway Dept. Signs can be retrieved for $3 per sign if it is less than 6 square feet and $15 per sign if it is larger than 6 square feet.

If signs aren’t collected before June 30 or Dec. 31 of each year, they may be destroyed.

Copies of the new ordinance are available in the office of the Hamilton County Auditor or at hamiltoncounty.in.gov.

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