As the May 7 municipal primary election nears, campaign signs are sprouting like wildflowers throughout the city. And – as usual – some of them are disappearing.
Carmel Street Dept. crews remove signs when they are placed in the public right-of-way, which violates a local ordinance. City code states that temporary yard signs must be placed on private property a minimum of five feet away from the street right-of-way.
“The Carmel Street Dept. routinely removes a variety of signs that are placed in the public right-of-way in violation of Carmel City Code, whether they be political in nature or are real estate, business or other signage,” city spokesman Dan McFeely said. “The city also responds to complaints from the public.”
For most Carmel residents, the right-of-way ends at the sidewalk or within several feet of the road. But for Tim Hannon, a first-time candidate facing three council incumbents for three at-large seats on the Carmel City Council, the public right-of-way stretches from Smokey Row Road to his front door.
He learned about the unusual right-of-way after a home security system captured video of street department employees removing campaign signs from what he thought was his property the morning of April 2.
Hannon went to City Hall to ask why the signs – which were placed between a pathway and the street – were removed.
“They informed us that someone sent an email tipping them off that our property has a unique right-of-way that extends to our front porch, so the signs were in violation of city ordinance,” Hannon posted on his campaign Facebook page.
Hannon said he does not know who alerted the city about the unusual right-of-way, and the city did not release that information. Hannon said he was surprised to learn that the right-of-way stretched to his front door, as he has been landscaping it for years.
Hannon said he was able to retrieve the signs from the city and plans to set them up elsewhere.
“I know yard signs disappear in the middle of the night, but when the city comes to your house and you’re running as a candidate against incumbents and your yard signs go away, that’s a little bit concerning,” he said. “The biggest (concern) is that signs sat out in the exact same spot four years ago (supporting Mayor Jim Brainard and councilor Bruce Kimball) and didn’t get touched.”
Jeff Worrell, the council’s Southeast District incumbent who is also seeking an at-large seat for his second term in office, said there is a learning curve when it comes to knowing where signs may legally be placed.
“If I’ve had a supporter who puts a sign in the right-of-way and it gets taken, my position is that I want to play by the rules,” he said. “We should all play by the same rules.”
Worrell said his policy is to only place signs in residential yards with the resident’s permission. He said he has never reported illegally placed signs to the city and that he hasn’t visited the street department to pick up any of his signs removed by the city.
Residents may view the right-of-way boundaries near their property by visiting https://carmelgis.carmel.in.gov/maps/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=3005d15bb8ee47c48538605fa421a359 and selecting “Parcels” from the layer list.
“This matter of election signs comes up every year,” McFeely said. “We always recommend that candidates for public office let their supporters know to keep campaign signs on their own private property to avoid them being picked up for violation of city code.”