may lead to a change in the town’s zoning regulations, or perhaps no more political signs at polling locations.
Tuesday, at around 11 a.m., master moderator Cheryl Larder removed a sign by Republican state Senate candidate Mike Doyle at Waterford Town Hall. Larder removed the sign after Town Clerk Bob Nye complained it violated the town’s zoning regulations.
Doyle complained, with Nye finding the town’s zoning regulations. The regulations prohibit not just Doyle’s sign, but all political signs at Town Hall.
Doyle continued to protest, and put his sign back up, after the town told him to take it down. After some discussions with town officials, Doyle took the sign back down.
First Selectman Dan Steward, a Republican, said the town will now have to rethink its policy on political signs on town property, and said he would talk with both parties to figure out a solution. He said he would not comment on what that solution would be or on Doyle’s behavior on Tuesday.
Tuesday was the primary election across the state, and per usual, there were several political signs at Waterford Town Hall. All the political signs were for candidates who were on the primary ballot, except the largest sign of all – Doyle’s.
Doyle is running for the state Senate in the 20th District against Democrat Andrea Stillman, with the election for the race in November. Town Clerk Bob Nye complained to Larder about Doyle’s sign being up more than 60 days away from the election, and Larder took it down.
Doyle was upset with the decision, and got into a heated argument with Larder in the town registrar’s office. Doyle alleged the sign was removed for political purposes, as Larder and Nye are both Democrats, but Larder and Nye both dismissed that charge.
“It is not politically motivated,” Larder said. “I am following the regulations.”
Doyle continued to protest, and was waiving the sign outside Town Hall, which is technically within Waterford’s zoning regulations. Eventually, he put the sign back onto its stakes in the ground – now a violation of the zoning regulations – but took it down again after a discussion with town officials.
The Zoning Regulation
The regulation says political signs must be erected within 60 days “before the date on which the respective matter is to be decided.” Since Doyle’s sign was erected into the ground more than 60 days away from his election with Stillman, the signs were a violation of the town’s zoning regulations, Steward said.
However, the regulations went on to say that no political signs should be “erected on any publicly owned property, building or structure.” For years, candidates have put signs out in front of the polling locations, which are all publicly-owned properties (the three elementary schools and Town Hall), and therefore are in violation of the town’s zoning regulations.
Steward said he will work with both parties and possibly even work to rewrite the zoning regulations to find what is the best solution. He refused to speculate on what that would be.
Meanwhile, the zoning regulation specifically says a sign cannot be “erected” on town property. However, if a candidate holds a sign – like how Doyle was waiving his sign around after the town took it out of the ground – that is allowed, Steward said.
The Full Text of the Zoning Regulation
Section 21.6 (headline: Temporary Signs), letter b (headline: Political Signs)
“Advertising the name and qualifications of a duly registered candidate for public elective office or advertising opinions regarding any issue to be voted upon at a public election may be temporary erected not more than 60 days before the date on which the respective matter is to be decided and all such signs shall be removed within 72 hours after the date of election. However, no such political signs are to be erected on any publicly owned property, building or structure.”