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Worcester County targeting illegal ‘snipe’ signs

Worcester County is starting a pilot program to remove illegal, or “snipe” signs from state rights-of-way.

Worcester County government center-file

The Worcester County Government Center in Snow Hill is pictured.
File photo

By Bethany Hooper, Associate Editor

Worcester County will start a pilot program to remove illegal signs from state rights-of-way.

On July 2, Public Works Director Dallas Baker came before the Worcester County Commissioners with a request to start a pilot program to remove “snipe signs,” or off-premises signs posted by members of the public. He said the program is an effort to assist the State Highway Administration clean up the state rights-of-way.

“So, we’re asking for commissioner approval to start a pilot program to remove snipe signs,” he said. “Those are the small roadside signs typically seen advertising services or sales of homes, that kind of thing, that have been illegally placed within state right-of-way. The state has the ability to delegate that authority to remove the signs to the counties. They’re understaffed.”

Baker said the public works department has received complaints regarding snipe signs along major roadways, including routes 50, 113, 611 and 589. He said creating a pilot program would allow roads crews to remove the signs and, eventually, charge a fine of $25 for each sign disposed of by the crew.

“Prior to starting the program, a public advertising notice regarding the removal of signs in SHA ROW would be posted,” he wrote in a memo to the commissioners “After advertising, the first three months of the program would involve the removal and disposal of the signs. After the initial three months, a $25 per sign fine would be charged for each sign removed.”

Commissioner Ted Elder asked how far back the state right-of-way extended. Baker said the size of the right-of-way varied, and that public works would have to obtain right-of-way drawings from the State Highway Administration.

“The easy determination is when you’re on a state road, if you see a utility pole, that’s where the state right-of-way ends,” he said. “Utility poles are typically located just on the outside.”

Commissioner Chip Bertino also asked how the public works department would determine who placed the sign.

“What happens when someone says, ‘I didn’t put that sign out there, someone else did.’” he asked.

Baker said the details would need to be worked out with the county attorney. He noted, however, that Worcester County would keep any revenues generated from the citations.

“The county gets the money,” he said.

When asked if the county had a similar sign policy for its right-of-way, Baker said it didn’t. He noted that public works crews hadn’t received any complaints of signs within the county right-of-way.

“It’s something we can look into and develop a policy for,” he said.

With no further discussion, the commissioners voted 7-0 to proceed with the pilot program, but to have the public works department develop a policy for county roads in the meantime.

This story appears in the July 11, 2024, print edition of the Bayside Gazette.