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Wille calls for sign code revision


With illegal signs cluttering walkways, little enforcement of existing laws and too many people wandering around lost, Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille is asking for public input before she drafts a revision to the county sign code.

“I think it’s very restrictive right now and so it tends to be broken,” Wille said of the sign code. “So it’s not enforced or it’s enforced selectively. I’m saying if we’re not satisfied with this, let’s take a look at it.”

The issue dates back at least to an attempted crackdown a couple of decades ago. There have been several unsuccessful attempts by the county to update and enforce the law since then.

While illegal signs are everywhere, too few signs give directions, said Wille, who has brought up the topic at community meetings and with community organizations. Feedback she has received indicates people don’t want to open the door to offensive signs but still want to know how to get where they need to go.

“Signs should have more information,” she said. “People sort of have treasure hunts for what they’re looking for.”

In Kailua-Kona, she said, people have to keep a sharp eye out for Costco because there are no directional signs pointing the way to the discount membership store.

Wille said she’s been researching signage protocol in Maine and Vermont. Maine regulates rather than prohibits directional signs within the right-of-way. Vermont has standardized signs that give distance and directions for businesses and other destinations. While illegal sandwich boards pop up and create hazards for the island’s pedestrians and bicyclists, the sandwich boards are permitted in Vermont as long as the person placing the sign can show beforehand that it will not be an obstruction, she said. Compliant signs receive a sticker that can be displayed.

Wille plans to draft a revision to the sign code to give the County Council a place to start discussions. She did not have a firm timeline for the revision.

“I’m not trying to promote one solution over another,” Wille said. “I want to hear what the problems are.”

Political signs have also been a sore point. Wille said some people think the signs should be picked up more quickly and there are questions about how far in advance of elections the signs should be allowed to go up.

“I know there’s a lot of campaign sign pollution,” she said.

North Kona Councilwoman Karen Eoff said political signs have no place on public property, and candidates need to know the rules before they post.

“Candidates just plug in signs anywhere,” she said. “We need to be respectful and ask permission from private property owners. And public property is just out of the question.”

Email Wille at mwille@co.hawaii.hi.us