Photo: Steve Thurston
I know Bernie Berne well enough to know that I ignore him at my peril. Bernie reads documents and reacts to them. I got a real taste of this when I wrote the Buckingham HeraldTrib. I followed a potential development at the corner N. Pershing Drive and N. Glebe Road where a couple 1970s-era buildings would be torn down and replaced with a couple retail/apartment mixed-use buildings.
Bernie pretty much killed it single-handedly after the compnay, Georgetown Strategic, had spent months proposing and editing plans. Bernie pointed out to the Design Review Committee that open space meant for the community had become a courtyard on the second floor, intended for the use of the residents of the apartment. That was the beginning of the end for the project.
So when Bernie twice called the Merc's reporting on the sign ordinance "wrong" (see the comments on this story), I had to look into it. He brings up two points, and I could have been more clear on one, but he is wrong (a bit) on the other.
In one story, I wrote: "People can post temporary signs on places like telephone poles for the purposes of directing others to an event or to ask for help finding a lost pet."
After speaking with county staffer Deborah Albert, who has been handling the sign ordinance for the county, I figured out where I was unclear: the county does not own the utility poles.
I should have written that the county can regulate what the owner of the pole puts on the pole, but can the county regulate a third party putting a sign on a utility pole? That gets tough.
Think of it this way: if a neighbor puts a "Vote for Pedro" sign on your lawn, you can remove it, but can the county?
It's a similar situation with utility poles: people who lose cats, haul junk, or buy houses in any condition, can place the signs without once asking Dominion Power for permission. How is it regulated? Who would zoning enforcement cite? Who gets in trouble for that sort of thing? The power company did not place the sign.
I'd bet that county enforcers could tear the sign down, but telling the property owner that they cannot put "lost cat" signs on their utility poles is silly given the fact that Dominion Power hasn't lost a cat in years!
So I could have been more clear there.