Candidates for office will no longer be able to turn their vehicles into rolling campaign signs and park them without restriction at county-owned facilities like the library or the courthouse.
Flagler County Commissioners — two of whom, Nate McLaughlin and Greg Hansen, are running for election themselves — approved an ordinance change during the commission's meeting Monday, July 16, restricting the signs.
"I just wanted to comment on the importance of this action," said Jim Ulsamer, chairman of the Flagler County Public Library's board of trustees. "I’ve been over to the library the past several voting seasons ... and I’ve seen — because of cars parked sometimes all day long in the spots very close to the entrance of the library — I've seen people in 94-degreee weather with a kid in one hand and a handful of books in the other have to shlep in all the way from the far reaches of the parking lot because they can't get any closer to the front door. What happens is, people choose to park their cars with very blatant signage. I don't think it really works in their benefit."
Without mentioning names, Ulsamer noted that some of the candidates whose signs were in the way at the library during previous election cycles weren't elected.
"The point I'm making is, you've got over 1,000 people walking into that library every day, and when it's a polling place you've got a lot more than that," he said. "And people resent the fact that that they've got to not only walk through what can sometimes be a gauntlet, but they've got to hike a long way in to go about their regular business of using the library."
County staff documents frame the parking and signage as safety concerns.
"Vehicle overnight parking and illegal signage at county facilities has become a large safety issue," a county staff document on the ordinance change states. "Staff has noticed an increase in individuals parking vehicles overnight at various county facilities. These vehicle owners are not conducting business with the county and have no legitimate reason for parking long term. Some vehicles are placed on county properties strictly for advertising purposes ... again while not conducting business at the county facility."
The new ordinance lets the county place its own signs warning that "oversize" and "advertising" vehicles, and vehicles without government license plates, may be towed when parked overnight at the Government Services Complex on State Road 100 or the Flagler County Public Library.
Advertising vehicles may also be towed if they're parked outside any other county facility, unless they're a contracted vendor or have a special event permit.
The ordinance doesn't apply to vehicles with placards or wraps that are parked at county facilities during normal business hours while the driver or occupant is using the facility.
Signs may not be placed on any county facilities and will be removed and then held for three working days for someone to claim them before the county throws them out, according to the new ordinance.
Private property owners who find unwanted signs on their land are within their rights to throw them out, County Attorney Al Hadeed said.
"They're allowed to immediately remove it," he said. "It's a trespass, just like somebody left a bag of garbage or dropped a mattress or placed something on their property without permission."