Councilors want to reduce clutter of illegally posted signs on utility poles, posts

by: SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: MARK MILLER - A wooden telephone pole at the corner of Highway 30 and Gable Road in south St. Helens is studded with staples, nails, tacks and bits of paper from illegally posted signs. Two more garage sale signs, one dating back to Labor Day weekend, are visible on the roadsign posts to its left. Another sign is duct-taped to the metal traffic signal pole in the background.St. Helens city councilors, frustrated with what they described as “clutter” at street corners caused by illegally posted cardboard and paper signs advertising garage sales and similar events, discussed ways to organize community sales at their Wednesday, Oct. 2, work session.

Council President Doug Morten, who presided over Wednesday’s meeting, prompted the discussion last month when he said some visitors to St. Helens had told him they found it difficult to spot and concentrate on road signs when driving into the city due to the signs posted on utility poles along Highway 30.

Morten and the other councilors, discussing the issue with city staff Wednesday, agreed they want to avoid discouraging garage sales but also curb the excessive sign-posting along roadways, which City Administrator John Walsh described as “a visual blight.”

“We’re not trying to eliminate garage sales,” said Councilor Susan Conn. “We’re just trying to reduce the clutter.”

Morten and Councilor Ginny Carlson mentioned the idea of working with the South Columbia County Chamber of Commerce, community groups and even other local governments to find a way to organize and promote garage sales in the community without the need for people to advertise their sales with signs posted on poles and posts, which is against city ordinance.

Carlson also suggested the city could offer signs for people to put out for a certain amount of time, allowing it to keep better track of the events and avoid illegally posted signs.

“It’s hard trying to have a garage sale,” Carlson said. “Where do you put your signs? Where is it OK to put your signs? And there are a lot of people out there that do follow the rules, and do pick up their signs and take them back, so making everybody play by the rules is the goal.”

Morten said, “It’s a very positive thing for our citizens to be able to open up their garages, sell their used items and have garage sales. That’s a big positive. The negative is cleaning up the advertising-marketing mess from that. And a lot of people just kind of walk away from that.”

Carlson mentioned the annual citywide garage sale in Rainier and neighborhood garage sales in Longview, Wash., as examples of what St. Helens could try to implement.

Morten said the city council will consider its options and provide city staff with more specific direction early next year.

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