Board of Supervisors Meeting Date:

R. Holder Trumbo, Jr., Chairman, Scott District Supervisor


August 13, 2009

Staff Lead:


Andrew Hushour, Assistant Zoning Administrator


Community Development



A Work Session to Brief the Board of Supervisors on Loudoun County’s Program for Removing Signs in the Right-of-Way


Topic Description:

The work session is an opportunity for staff to brief the Board of Supervisors on Loudoun County’s experience with a trial program where they utilized both staff and volunteers from the community to pull illegal signs from the right-of-way.   As highlighted in a recent
Washington Post
article, the program provided promising results, and the County may wish to consider utilizing similar methods to help address the problem of illegal signs in the right-of-way.


Requested Action of the Board of Supervisors:

Conduct a work session.

Summary Staff Report:

The placement of temporary signs in the right-of-way constitutes a violation of Virginia Code which is enforceable by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).  The County has entered into an agreement with VDOT whereby County staff is authorized to enforce such sign violations by pulling signs from the right-of-way (Attachment 1).   Over the last two years, Zoning staff has sporadically removed signs from the right-of-way, but this occurs infrequently now that the Zoning Inspector position has been eliminated.   The County’s Litter Control task force is also charged with pulling such signs in conjunction with their broader mission of removing litter from the right-of-way.   The Loudoun County model suggests another approach, the use of citizen volunteers.

The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors adopted a pilot program to train citizen volunteers to assist County zoning staff in the removal of illegally posted signs from right-of-way areas. The pilot program lasted for 2 months and included 44 volunteers, resulting in approximately 8,300 signs being removed from public rights-of-way. The pilot program was recently made permanent by the Board of Supervisors. Based on the recent publicity surrounding the Loudoun County program, Fauquier County staff has been tasked to collect information on the program to determine if it would be successful in Fauquier County. In general, the placement of signs in public right-of-ways is undesirable because of the safety hazard they pose to motorists whose attention is diverted to the signs. In addition, the placement of a large number of signs along right-of-ways contributes to visual clutter in such areas and is generally thought to be unappealing. Furthermore, the proliferation of such signs increases the costs associated with highway maintenance since local and state government resources are required to remove them under traditional enforcement programs.

The Loudoun County volunteer program is administered by the Loudoun County Department of Building and Development. Volunteers must agree to the Sign Collection Program Guidelines (See Attachment 2) and the Building and Development Department maintains the right to accept and reject applicants. The guidelines set forth the basic requirements of the program in that signs can only be collected during daylight hours and only those signs located 5 feet from the edge of pavement are subject to removal. Under no circumstances are signs located on private property allowed to be removed and the guidelines require that volunteers notify zoning enforcement staff in the event that volunteers are unsure as to whether a particular sign is eligible for removal. In those cases, the sign is inspected through the County’s normal enforcement process and a notice of violation is sent if the sign is in fact a violation. All signs collected are sent to the landfill for disposal.

Although the Loudoun County program has been successful, there have been some noted drawbacks. Several opponents of the program have indicated that there is opportunity for discrimination against particular types of businesses or specific business owners, in that their signs were removed while others were not. In addition, several realtors and business owners have complained that poorly trained volunteers are removing signs that are clearly located on private property.  In both instances, Loudoun staff concluded that it appeared that the issues were directly related to the character of the individuals that were volunteering, as opposed to some flaw in the sign removal program itself. 

Financial Impact Analysis:

No financial impact analysis has been conducted.

Identify any other Departments, Organizations or Individuals that would be affected by this request:

Department of Economic Development


1.       Fauquier County/VDOT Agreement

2.       Loudoun County Sign Collection Program Guidelines

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