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Signs of the season
Rules say where candidates, supporters can post placards
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Forsyth County News
There's more than just kudzu popping up around Cumming and Forsyth County.
With the July 15 primary about a month away, signs touting local candidates have begun sprouting at busy intersections in the hopes of catching motorists' eyes, if not their votes.
Candidates should be aware, however, that the city and the county have rules about where such signs can go.
Cumming City Administrator Gerald Blackburn said campaign signs have to be in a place where they do not distract traffic.
"All signs are supposed to be just off the right of way, back on private property," he said.
"But the city won't take signs up unless we're cutting grass or maintaining a section where the signs are. If our street crews are doing that, then we'll take them up."
Blackburn said candidates and their representatives should talk with property owners about where they place signs, though a permit is not required to put up one on private property.
Spokeswoman Jodi Gardner said the county's sign ordinance is "content neutral," which means that signs are allowed according to the zoning and use of property on which they sit, not the message.
"Two sign types that often have political messages are expression signs and weekend signs," she said. "These signs are not limited to political messages, but many political messages are displayed on expression signs and weekend signs because these types of signs do not require a sign permit."
According to the ordinance, weekend signs are allowed between noon Fridays and 6 p.m. Sundays. They are limited to one per lot and are not permitted on public right of ways. They must be on private property with the owner's consent.
Weekend signs can be no larger than 6 square feet and the owner must put his or her identification information on the back.
Expression signs are limited to two per lot. A maximum of six signs is allowed, however, during the 60-day period before any local, state or federal primary, special or general election ballot initiative.
Expression signs in residential, agricultural and office residential zoned districts may not have a sign face larger than 6 square feet, can not be taller than 4 feet and must be at least 10 feet from the right of way.
Those in commercial and zoning districts are allowed a maximum sign face of 32 square feet, a maximum height of 10 feet and must also be at least 10 feet from the right of way.
Tammy Wright, director of Keep Forsyth County Beautiful, said there are fewer problems with campaign signs since the county's code enforcement department expanded.
She said any complaints her office receives are passed on to code enforcement.
"We used to not have anybody to handle the issue, but they do that now," she said.
Wright said she has noticed that campaign signs that are removed are usually put in a roped off area in the department's parking lot. They are kept there for a few days to allow candidates time to retrieve them before they are discarded.
Wright said there was a lot of activity in the parking lot during the Feb. 5 presidential preference primary.
"Our parking lot was full of people coming in and out," she said.
"Code enforcement was out rounding up the signs and bringing them back to the office. And the people working the campaigns were coming in and out two or three times during the day picking them back up and taking them back out.
"I think we've come a long way with the sign issue," she said.
According to code, signs that don't follow county ordinance could be removed at the owner's expense. Violators could be cited and made to appear in Magistrate Court.