State plans to get tough on homemade directional signs

Posted: Tuesday, April 18, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Officials say they plan to begin enforcing a law this week that bans the use of homemade signs directing people from state roads to their businesses.

The Department of Transportation and Public Facilities has stopped issuing permits for private directional signs and says everyone will have to begin using the standard state signs.

''There will be no more home manufactured signs,'' said Tamar diFranco, the agency's deputy director of design.

The ''no-more-private-signs policy'' becomes official Thursday, diFranco said.

Up to now, some areas of the state allowed privately made directional signs while others did not. diFranco said the state intends to make right of way enforcement policies more consistent across Alaska.

The agency is enforcing a regulation that was reinforced by an attorney general's opinion in October saying private signs on public roads run contrary to state laws.

The confusion came in part because of changes to the signing law over the past several years.

The Legislature in 1996 relaxed the law, but a citizen's initiative two years later overturned that change and narrowed it even more than it had been originally.

The state took the citizens' initiative as a cue from Alaskans to enforce its rights of way better than it had in the past, diFranco said.

That happened much to the chagrin of such business owners as Debbie Eberhardt, who runs A Taste of Alaska Lodge near Fairbanks.

Eberhardt said she got a call from the state several years ago to remove a one-foot by one-foot sign from her mailbox or it would be removed for her.

''The state said it was a hazard; that people could not see it properly,'' Eberhardt said.

She replaced the sign with two that the state deemed more appropriate, at a cost of $1,300, but still feels hassled because of ongoing problems with the new signs, she said.

The latest problem arose when the state said Eberhardt had to move the signs because a neighbor complained that they directed traffic into his driveway.

''There's all kinds of people that are in this right of way advertising and the state's not making them put up (new) signs,'' Eberhardt said.

The state has been directing more effort toward cleaning up its policies and ensuring that they're evenly applied, diFranco said.

''We've kind of ebbed and flowed in our enforcement largely because of staffing and budget constraints,'' she told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

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