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What’s the Deal With: Campaign signs on public rights of way?

Bellingham officials say they're OK

Campaign signs line McLeod Road at Meridian Street in Bellingham. Political signs in city rights of way are OK as long as adjacent property owners approve.
Campaign signs line McLeod Road at Meridian Street in Bellingham. Political signs in city rights of way are OK as long as adjacent property owners approve.
By Ralph Schwartz Local Government Reporter

Virtually all candidates get their names out there during election season with yard signs or the much bigger, mini-billboard signs visible along Interstate 5. 

Drivers northbound on I-5 will see them off the Sunset Drive onramp. They also appear at the corner of Meridian Street and McLeod Road, where drivers turn to get on southbound I-5. 

The I-5 campaign signs appear to be on private property or along city streets.  

Bellingham’s Public Works Department says signs in the city right of way are permitted as long as the adjacent property owner gives permission. The property owner at McLeod and Meridian happens to be the Bellingham Golf and Country Club, although the signs are far from the club’s entrance.

That spot has been a go-to spot for campaign signs since the 1980s or 1990s, campaign officials said.

The city removes campaign signs if they are adjacent to city property, a city spokesperson said, citing state law. 

The city might not be too strict about this. Campaign signs pop up like colorful autumn weeds along Boulevard in Bellingham, even though the strip along Boulevard, south of the State Street roundabout, is city-owned.

Wherever they are, state code says campaign signs must be removed 10 days after Election Day.

This story’s headline and caption were updated at 12:05 p.m. Monday, Oct. 9 to more accurately reflect where campaign signs are allowed.


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