BAR HARBOR — Code Enforcement Officer Angela Chamberlain removed eight different signs from Route 3 medians last Wednesday, she said. The signs advertised events including the Art Walk, the SPCA Pet Fair and other arts and community events including one in Southwest Harbor.
“You cannot put signs on the town’s property without approval of the town,” Chamberlain said. “That includes telephone poles, trees, rocks or other natural features.”
Normally, notices of code violations are sent to the owner of the property. In the case of these signs, the property owner is the town. “I take them down, bring them back to my office, and let the police know I’ve done that,” Chamberlain said. “People usually report them stolen, so the police can tell them to come here to pick up their signs, and I can inform them of the rules.”
She said she has taken down signs in the past. “I hadn’t done it at all this year, but it seemed to be pretty out of control last week.”
Political signs are often placed on the Route 3 medians and other public property, including the edge of the Conners Emerson school property at the intersection of Cottage and Eden streets.
“I don’t touch any political signs at election time,” Chamberlain said. “I think there’s state law allowing those.” Private political signs are exempt.
Town Manager Cornell Knight confirmed that Chamberlain’s enforcement action was at her own discretion. “No councilors have said anything [about the signs], and I haven’t heard from anyone in the community,” he said. If a group wishes to apply for special permission to place a sign on town property, he said, they could write a letter to Town Council.
The rules are part of the land use ordinance, Chapter 125 of the municipal code. Section 67 of the ordinance, “General Review Standards,” includes a long subsection with rules for signs and advertising. Signs must be on private property only, which means road medians are off limits.
Signs “created by public, civic, philanthropic, charitable or religious organizations announcing an auction, public supper, lawn sale, arts and educational events,” etc. are included in a section that requires they be removed “within 72 hours of the close of the event,” and they still must be on private property.
In the ordinance, political signs are only allowed “42 days prior to the appropriate election” and two days following the election.