The official responsible for enforcing the town laws regarding signs said the 4-by-8 foot “Sandy Treadwell for Congress” signs are OK as long as they’re on private property.
Although the town code doesn’t mention that the town has no authority over political signs on private property, Steven Mayer, director of building and zoning, said he has spoken to the town attorney about the issue.
“If you put a sign on your private property, it really becomes a freedom-of-speech issue,” he said.
The town code specifies that political signs may be up to 4 square feet in a residential district or 16 square feet in a business district, but Mayer said that only applies to signs on the public right of way.
Political signs are the only ones that fall under that freedom-of-speech exemption, Mayer said. Commercial and advertising signs on private property have to follow the town’s zoning codes.
The Clifton Park Democratic Committee filed a complaint last week complaining that the 32-square-foot Treadwell signs were larger than the town law allowed. One such sign was taken down because it was questionable whether it was on private property or not, but the others have been allowed to stand.
Treadwell’s campaign spokesman had said the rules don’t apply to signs posted on private property.
“It’s our understanding, and I think both parties will inform you, that right of ways are restricted and private property is not,” said Peter Constantakes, Treadwell spokesman.
But town Democratic Chairman Todd Kerner, who filed a complaint with town officials by e-mail on Thursday evening, questioned that interpretation.
“Under their thinking, McDonald’s could put up a sign with flashing lights, and they would say as long as it’s on private property, it’s OK.”
Kerner wanted the signs to be removed or the property owners to go through the appropriate zoning channels to get the signs approved.
There are at least six oversized Treadwell signs in the town, Kerner said, including some in prominent places — on Route 9 north of the post office, on Route 146 near Friday’s and CVS and on Route 146 heading toward Rexford.
Constantakes said the big signs are scattered throughout the 10-county district and Clifton Park is the only municipality where they have met resistance.
“We check with the property owners and get their permission to do it,” Constantakes said.
Kerner had complained on Tuesday that Democratic candidates are quickly chastised if they break the rules on political signs but the GOP-dominated town is slow to act against Republican candidates.
He said specifically that officials ignored campaign sign violations by Republicans two years ago when former congressman John Sweeney was running for re-election.