Schenectady targets power pole signs

Business owners: Posters cheap way to draw customers

Friday, March 16, 2012
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— The signs seem to be everywhere.

Little businesses, looking to advertise as cheaply as possible, are stapling signs to power poles throughout the city. That’s illegal — but city officials said they can’t enforce the law even though the ads include the owners’ phone numbers.

Legally, they said, there’s no way to tell whether the person who owns the phone also committed the illegal act of hanging up the signs.

But Corporation Counsel John Polster is considering new rules that would allow the city to crack down.

He’s working on draft legislation that would change the city code so that anyone benefiting from a sign is responsible for the advertisement. They would have to pay the fine if the sign is posted illegally and they would be stuck doing the time-consuming work of ripping down each sign.

Local business owners who rely on the signs aren’t happy.

E.J. Maier, who runs We Buy Junk Cars, said he’d lose many customers if he can’t post signs.

“I’d lose 20 percent of my profit because 20 comes from signs,” he said.

He has seven phone numbers — for signs, his Facebook account and other forms of advertisement — so he is able to track the effectiveness of each type of advertisement.

Zoning Officer Steve Strichman has called the various phone numbers on signs posted in the city, telling the business owners to take down their signs. Most have ignored him.

But one man, who identified himself only as Pete the plumber, said he recently took his signs down after a warning call from the city.

The plumber refused to discuss why he preferred to advertise his business for free on power poles, saying only, “Isn’t that pretty self-explanatory?”

Maier said the city should exempt signs like theirs, which are made of durable materials.

“To a certain extent, I understand where they’re coming from, with all the garage sales. See, people disrespect by putting up a sign for an event they’re having and they leave them up.” And they look bad and blow in the wind, he added.

“But my signs are professionally printed. They’re weather-proof. They’re unbendable. We don’t put them up in disrespectful places. We never put them near traffic signs. They’re always straight as an arrow.”

Polster is actually considering the opposite: exempting garage sale signs if they’re posted at the edge of a resident’s property — not on the road, but close enough that they’re technically in the city’s right-of-way.

He also needs to get a letter from National Grid stating that it will notify the city if it grants anyone permission to post signs on its poles. With that letter, the city can enforce the regulations on the presumption that anyone posting signs is doing so without permission, rather than having to check with National Grid for every incident.

The change in the code would have to be approved by the City Council.

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March 16, 2012
7:56 a.m.
mad97dog says...

One would hope that the city might have the foresight to realize that the signs increase business which in turn creates jobs and tax revenue. Or is it just another ploy for the city to collect fines from the very people who support it. Wake up city council, you are taxing and fining us to death!

March 16, 2012
9:01 a.m.
Angela901 says...

and I would like to add, I am surprised that National Grid has not found a way to turn a profit from this !!

March 18, 2012
11:52 a.m.
robbump says...

The ILLEGAL signs are an eyesore and totally unregulated. If those merchants wish to advertise, there are companies with APPROVED and properly zoned billboards of all sizes for them to use.

National Grid does not wish to "make a profit" on this because the nails (some rather large) weaken the poles and cause injuries (read: workman's compensation) to its employees.

I do my part of fighting that kind of blight by "neutralizing" the signs. I don't remove them. I cut away or paint over the phone number, or website, rendering the sign useless, but still there as a warning that further placement of signs are a waste of money.

I encourage others who share my disgust of them to do the same.

I obey laws in my advertising; others can too.

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