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Yard sale and lost pet signs: Are they legal and who's enforcing them?

Yard sale and lost pet signs: Are they legal and who's enforcing them?

CREATED May 24, 2012

Reporter: Valerie Cavazos

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) -- Signs, signs are everywhere. Few neighborhoods escape those yard sale signs placed on street corners, money maker  ads staked in medians and lost pet signs taped to posts. But are these signs legal and who is charge of enforcing the signs that are not?

There are plenty of signs to read peppered along practically every street and neighborhood  in Tucson -- from signs selling just about anything in stores and in neighborhoods to pets lost and found.

And some of these paper or cardboard messages can remain up for a very long time. Businesses are required to get a permit for any sign on their property, but what about the rest of the community?

KGUN9 OYS  wanted to find out if the owners knew whether their signs are legal. So KGUN9  reporter Valerie Cavazos called the number posted on one of the signs staked near a sidewalk of a busy street. The owner, who was selling a family mobile home, said she didn't have a permit for the sign and was confident her sign was legal. She said she saw a number of other people posting similar signs so she thought that she could too.

Cavazos also called the number listed on a lost dog sign taped to a pole. No one answered that call -- perhaps they found the dog.

Cavazos also contacted the owner of a colorful box that was placed in a median directing drivers to visit the Springhill Apartment Homes -- much like those directional yard sale signs we see around neighborhoods. Apartment manager Julissa Miranda placed that box in the median -- she even decorated it.

Miranda told Cavazos, "I started making our own boxes and we put balloons out there and they haven't taken those. "

Cavazos asked: "But do you know if they are legal?
Miranda: "The boxes? No. I don't really.
Cavazos: Do you want to know that?
"Yeah," Miranda said. And then after a slight hestitation she follows with a "no" and laughs.

After speaking to a few sign owners, KGUN9 wanted to know what is legal? Can a person put a temporary sign between the street and the sidewalk even for one day? According to city code, that answer is no because it's a public right of way, owned by the city. That includes fences and posts.

Teresa Williams is the Code Enforcement Manager for the City of Tucson's Housing and Community Development Department. She says all the scenarios we showcased are in violation of city code --  the rules stipulated in a 78 page sign code manual found on the city's website. "And our staff is responsible to enforce it," said Willaims. Which leads to this question, why aren't these sign codes being enforced?

"We're complaint driven. We do not have the staff to drive the streets to just look for signs to remove," said Willaims.

The city has 18 inspectors, covering 200 square miles. She says only only 2 percent of the 10,000 cases they handle are complaints of sign violations. She says the insectors often have a hard time reaching the violators.  "A lot of times they don't have a number or address or name. They may have a phone number but once you tell them who you are they'll hang up. We don't know where they are so the effort put forth on trying to locate a responsible party -- our best effect is like grafitti, the best thing to do is just remove it," said Williams. The city says that extreme violators can be slapped with a citation, ranging from 150 to 25-hundred dollars.

The inspectors will remove and impound illegal signs, but not during an election season. The rules changed after the state passed a bill about a year ago. "Political signs are permitted to be placed in a public right of way 60 days before a primary and 15 days after a General Election. With that we've been directed not to remove any signs in the public right of way during the election time. Once that's expired we can resume removing signs on the public right of way," said Williams.

Cavazos went back to the Springfield Apartment Homes to let Julissa Miranda know that her sign is in violation, but the city is not cracking down on illegal signs. Miranda told Cavazos, "So now I know. So it's not going to happen until after November unless I have a permit."

Until then, we'll continue to see the signs.