Political signs going up a little too early in Fredonia

OBSERVER Photo by Jimmy McCarthy The Fredonia Village Board made quick work of a light agenda during a Monday meeting. Reporting unpaid village taxes to the county Director of Finance and setting trick-or-treating hours were among the items that passed.

The Nov. 7 election may be nearing, but it’s still too early for political signs on Fredonia residents’ lawns.

As a result, the village’s code enforcement officer told trustees during a Monday work session that friendly mailers were sent to residents who placed signs in their front yards.

Village law allows the placement of signs, whether it be for a national, state or local race, 21 days prior to the election. Like every year, notices were sent to people who have signs already placed on their properties.

Approximately 20 notices, many of which were in the area of Chestnut and Gardner streets, have been issued.

“I’m doing what our local law says,” Code Enforcement Officer Charles LaBarbera said. “What we did is we drafted up a nice letter just advising people that they were in violation. It wasn’t a violation letter. There was no mention of court or anything, I don’t believe.”

Political signs are permitted in all zoning districts as long as they comply with conditions and restrictions within the law. Specifically, the local law states that a political sign advertising a candidate or candidates are permitted no earlier than 21 days before an election. Signs must then be removed a week after the election.

As for size, a sign cannot exceed eight-square-feet in size. Other restrictions detail no political signs in any street right-of-way or on other public property.

Mayor Athanasia Landis said there was some discussion last week regarding the matter. She said she read a recent court ruling of a case related to signs that dealt mainly with content on a sign. She said it was thought that religious signs were discriminated when it came to how big they were compared to others.

“As long as we keep them fair for all, and we don’t discriminate against the content, I think we’re safe,” Landis said.

A new local law being proposed aims for equality among all signs created. The proposal awaits a public hearing and examination from the board. LaBarbera said they’re not giving a duration on when signs can go up.

“I think election law does that,” he said. “When we get that new code adopted, we’ll be able to dodge that bullet.”

During the meeting, village trustees made quick work of a light agenda. The board approved Oct. 31 trick-or-treating hours in the village from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. An annual Halloween costume party and parade is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 28, beginning at 1 p.m.

The board also approved an agreement with the town of Pomfret in order to provide commercial water service to 10398 Route 60, which is the site of a former gas station and convenient market. The commercial customer will pay three times the village rate for each 1,000 gallons of water.

Trustees approved to submit a report of unpaid village taxes for the fiscal year, dated June 1, 2017 through May 31, 2018, to the Chautauqua County Director of Finance. Unpaid taxes and penalties total $193,562.66. The board also approved a lease agreement with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency for real property to construct, operate and maintain a communications tower 40-feet-by-60 feet in size. An underground utility corridor 20-feet wide and approximately 200-feet in length will also be constructed.