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Olmstead: Candidates should pay attention to signage laws


It is the dead of winter, and political signs are popping up like it is already early spring in Apopka. In past campaign seasons, our beautiful city has been covered in awful PVC and wire signs for local, state, and federal candidates placed illegally on easements, private properties, empty lots, highways, and sneakily on lot lines, hoping that no one would notice or at least complain. 

Well, guess what? It isn’t as prolific this season, but they are committing violations nonetheless. Commercial-sized signs are in residential parcels, and the remainder are in the easements. 

The politicians need to pay attention to the campaign laws regarding where the signs can be erected and the square footage permitted in those locations. If not, we must nip those weeds in the bud. 

City of Apopka Code

5.10.10. – Temporary Signs . . . 

  1. Sign Types Allowed. A temporary sign may be a freestanding or wall sign, but shall not be an electric sign. . . .
  2. Political Signs. Political signs may be placed on private property provided:
  3. The signs are not placed on the site until after the candidate has qualified for an election, and the signs are removed within seven days after the general election or after the primary election if the candidate is no longer a viable candidate.
  4. The signs are located in Residential districts and do not exceed six square feet per face, or are located in Commercial, Industrial, and Special Purpose districts and do not exceed 32 square feet per face.
  5. The signs are not located on any public property right-of-way or private property without the owner's express permission or as may be allowed at public polls.

The salient points of our city code are that:

*The candidate is responsible for the signs, as is written on the sign itself,

*Residential locations cannot exceed six (6) square feet per side (2’ x 3’)

*Commercial, Industrial, Special Purpose cannot exceed thirty-two (32) square feet per side (abt 3.2’ x 10’)

*Permission MUST be obtained from the property OWNER first

*Not allowed on easements or government property

County law would apply if the signs are in one of the county enclaves or out of the city jurisdiction. Note that county lots can only have 32 square feet total on commercial parcels, not per side, compared to Apopka and residential lots, which have 16 square feet per lot. That is a one-sided 4’ by 4’ sign or a two-sided 2’ x 2’ sign. 

Orange County Code

Sec. 31.5-141. - Political signs and ideological signs.

(a)  Political signs or ideological signs may be permitted in all zoning districts. 

(b) Political or ideological signs may be erected in residential districts only with the landowner's written permission

(c) The maximum allowable copy area for political signs or ideological signs in residential districts shall be sixteen (16) square feet per lot. The maximum allowable copy area for political signs or ideological signs in all other zoning districts shall be thirty-two (32) square feet per parcel, except that the maximum allowable copy area for a political sign or ideological sign displayed on a billboard shall be as set forth in the standards for billboards. 

(d) The maximum height of any political sign or ideological sign shall be eight (8) feet, except that the maximum height of a political sign or ideological sign on billboard shall be as set forth in the standards for billboards. 

(e) A political sign shall not be erected more than ninety (90) days prior to an election or referendum, and it shall be removed within ten (10) days after the vote on the election, referendum, or campaign issue. Any sign not removed within this time frame shall be considered an abandoned sign and subject to removal without notice. 

Several candidates last year violated the state law of posting signs and even billboards on state roads. The state law also requires them to remove all signs within 30 days of the election day AND permits the city to charge a removal fee. Sadly, in the last election, the candidates left the polls to party, leaving thousands of signs at the polling places with a hurricane raging. The taxpayers paid for the removal of all signs so that the hurricane wouldn’t make them missiles. Apopka does have a $1 per square foot fee for signs if the code is imposed; that could be a lot of money for the General Fund. Yes, the state statute affords us the opportunity to charge actual costs without having it in our code. 

Florida State Statute

FS106.1435 Usage and removal of political campaign advertisements.

(1) Each candidate, whether for a federal, state, county, or district office, shall make a good-faith effort to remove all of his or her political campaign advertisements within 30 days after:

(a) Withdrawal of his or her candidacy;

(b) Having been eliminated as a candidate; or

(c) Being elected to office.

(2) If political campaign advertisements are not removed within the specified period, the political subdivision or governmental entity has the authority to remove such advertisements and may charge the candidate the actual cost for such removal. Funds collected for removing such advertisements shall be deposited to the general revenue of the political subdivision.

(3) Pursuant to chapter 479, no political campaign advertisements shall be erected, posted, painted, tacked, nailed, or otherwise displayed, placed, or located on or above any state or county road right-of-way.

(4) The officer before whom a candidate qualifies for office shall notify the candidate, in writing, of the provisions in this section.

(5) This provision does not preclude municipalities from imposing additional or more stringent requirements on using and removing political campaign advertisements.

The most important part of the State Statute is subsection (4). Every candidate signs a statement in front of City Clerk Susan Bone that they know they cannot erect signs in the easements of roads and highways and that they received the statutes and codes. Amazingly, the candidates that were the greatest violators in the last election (and admitted that they deliberately violated the law) were incumbents and had signed the statement over repeated campaigns. One Federal candidate with a billboard in Apopka on 441 was on the House Ethics in Legislation committee. Irony or ego? If found guilty of violating this law, a candidate would not be able to run for public office in the future. 

Political advertisements must also include specific legal verbiage, which some were missing this year and had to add. That information is online in the Florida constitution in State Statute 106.143 Political advertisements circulated prior to the election; requirements. I am concerned with the number of candidates entering the political arena who either don’t hire someone familiar with rules and laws, have been in the foray themselves, or bother studying the rules before jumping into the race. Where have they been all of their lives?


Contact the candidate to remove signs illegally placed on your property or elsewhere. I have contacted three candidates to remove illegal signs. Two candidates have been somewhat cooperative. One has been obstinate about it. The Clerk has presented these laws to the candidates. They are required to train their campaign staff. One candidate has privately and publicly stated that he has informed his staff of the laws. The problem is that over-eager campaigners still have to comply. 

Chief of Police Michael McKinley confirmed on Saturday, 14 January 2024, that code enforcement has been receiving and enforcing code complaints for signage issues. They are disposing of the signs just like they do business signs. 

Depending on the location of the Enforcement Office of Apopka or Orange County sign, the Code would be the next place to report an illegal sign. Apopka violations can be reported on SeeClickFix App for your phone or laptop at https://apopka.gov/913/SeeClickFix  or call 407-703-1738. Signs at Orange County addresses can be reported to 311 or the 311 APP on OCFL.net. 

The Florida Department of Elections can be contacted at 850-245-6200 and DivElections@dos.myflorida.com.

This Op-Ed is NOT intended to arm parties with political swords; it is intended to keep our city beautiful and follow the law. After all, we don’t want to have to choose between lawbreakers. The last couple of election cycles were a mess. Apopka can do much better. 

OP/ED, Opinion, Apopka Elections 2024, Campaign Signs,


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