BaltCo citizen sign complaints skew toward Ehrlich
One Baltimore County supporter of Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. for governor has filed a federal lawsuit over his right to display a political sign, and others complain that the Democratic county administration seems more vigilant about enforcing the rules on Ehrlich signs than those for his likely November opponent, Democrat Gov. Martin O'Malley. So what do the records show?
A check of the political signs complaint files kept at the county’s Department of Permits and Development Management shows a great preponderance of Ehrlich over O'Malley, but department chief Timothy M. Kotroco says that's a reflection of who is making the complaints to his department. He said sign code enforcement is driven strictly by complaints.
It's early yet, but as of last Friday, 19 files had been opened on complaints about political signs. Of those files, 15 involved Ehrlich signs, one involved a combination sign for Republican District 6 County Council candidate Ryan Nawrocki and Ehrlich, one concerned an O'Malley sign and in two cases the content of the sign could not be determined from the file.
The 15 Ehrlich sign complaints mostly claimed that the signs were too large for the zone where they were being displayed. Depending on the zone and the type of property, county rules may limit political signs to 8 square feet in residential areas. In business areas, such signs can be up to 50 square feet.
In five cases, the county found no violation. One case was dismissed for lack of grounds, as the inspector wrote on the "correction notice" — the first step in enforcing the rules — that the sign was not legal because the candidate had not yet officially filed his candidacy with the Maryland Board of Elections. There is no such law in the Baltimore County Zoning Regulations on signs. That left nine cases yet to be decided on Ehrlich signs.
No decision about enforcement had been made on the O'Malley sign, which was displayed on North Point Boulevard.
And because of that federal suit filed by Stephen V. Kolbe in May, no further enforcement will happen until the court has ruled on the case, says Kotroco. He says the county will continue to take complaints about political signs, so long as the complainant gives their name and phone number, and will issue a "correction notice" advising of a potential violation. But unless there's a potential safety question, such as a sign blocking drivers' views of the road, he said the county will take no further steps, even if the sign is not removed.
He said the county is waiting for the U.S. District Court. Personally, Kotroco said he's eagerly waiting for the passing of the whole political sign season.