New law will allow more political signs

  • John Santana<br>Mill Creek Enterprise editor
  • Monday, March 3, 2008 6:42am

Residents of homeowners associations may see a lot more political campaign signs on lawns in their neighborhoods as this fall’s local and county council races heat up.

That’s because a bill signed by Gov. Christine Gregoire on Friday, April 22 prohibits homeowners’ associations from banning political yard signs before an election. It takes effect in late July.

The bill was sponsored in the state Senate by Don Benton, R-Vancouver.

“Homeowners’ associations should have the right to place reasonable restrictions on people, but not ones that limit freedom of speech and expression,” said Benton, who is the ranking Republican on the Senate committee that oversees housing issues.

The bill also had the backing of the American Civil Liberties Union.

“It has been an important issue to our members because they want the same political free speech rights as every other homeowner in the state,” said ACLU of Washington spokesperson Jennifer Shaw.

Typical homeowners’ association covenants regulate such things as architectural designs of homes, the size of mailboxes and the placement of satellite dishes, and impose fines for violations.

The Mill Creek Community Association, which has covenant powers over a large part of the city of Mill Creek’s residential neighborhoods, is one such association that has traditionally barred political campaign signs from yards and on association property alongside city streets, such as Village Green Drive. The association, however, allows poltical signs in home’s windows.

The law, meanwhile, caught the Mill Creek Community Association board by surprise, according to board president Walt Reissig.

“No one told us about it,” he said.

Reissig said that if the association knew about the bill, that the association might have banded with other homeowners’ associations in the area to lobby against the bill.

“We don’t want a proliferation of signs in yards. We’re dead set against that,” Reissig said, “and we don’t think residents want them.

“We would just hate to see these all over the place.”

With the restriction removed, those who display such signs will be subject to regulations of their city or county. In Mill Creek, that means political signs may only be displayed until three days after an election and that campaigns must apply for a permit with the city in order to display signs.

In unincorporated Snohomish County, such as the Mays Pond and Martha Lake neighborhoods, signs must be removed no later than 30 days after an election.

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