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Questions raised about political signs

Two candidates for state representative in Clark County have taken different interpretations of the local ordinance for temporary signs.

Incumbent state Rep. Les Yates and challenger Ryan Dotson posted on social media this week about the situation.

The local ordinance, which was approved by the Winchester Board of Commissioners and the Clark County Fiscal Court in 2019, allows temporary signs up to four square feet between April 15 and May 30. The ordinance was designed to be content neutral, so it would not regulate the content of the signs.

Gov. Andy Beshear has postponed the primary election until June 23, more than a month after the original May 19 date.

Yates said people had approached him about putting out political signs already. Yates said he called Winchester City Hall for an opinion, and was told the signage date could be delayed to align with the delayed primary election. Yates said he would not put his campaign signs out until May 23, or about 30 days prior to the election.

“I will be adhering to this opinion, and I ask that anyone placing my political signs out to do the same,” Yates wrote on Facebook.

Winchester Planning Director Robert Jeffries said the prior ordinance said such signs could go out 30 days before an election and must be picked up within five days after. The current ordinance, though, includes specific dates for such temporary signs, from April 15 to May 30 and Oct. 1 to Nov. 15.

Dotson has already been putting yard signs around the county, since April 15 has already passed.

“The old rule was signs could only be put out 30 days prior to the date of the election, but the local ordinance changed,” Dotson wrote.

Because of the delayed election schedule, there is question about when signs should go out.

“I’d think we’d have to extend the deadline,” Jeffries said. “The reason we have this deadline is so they would have a few days” to collect the signs.

Winchester City Manager Matt Belcher said he spoke with Yates and gave the opinion of applying the time frame to the new primary date.

“In my opinion, May 15 is the date in which a sign should be put out,” Belcher said. “I know some people have already put them out. I don’t know that we’re going to tell everybody they need to take them up and them put them back out.”

The ordinance also allows signs up to three square feet any time, he said.

Changing the ordinance, even on a temporary basis, would be difficult.

“Obviously, no one expected the date of the election to be moved,” Clark County Judge-Executive Chris Pace said. “I’m aware there is some question for how the days should be interpreted.”

Amending the ordinance would take two readings, which he said would be difficult with a little more than a month to go before the primary.

“Reasonable minds need to prevail in these kinds of situations,” Pace said.

Belcher agreed.

“We’re not going to amend an ordinance for an emergency situation,” he said.

About Fred Petke

Fred Petke is a reporter for The Winchester Sun, the Jessamine Journal and the State Journal. His beats include cops, courts, fire, public records, city and county government and other news. To contact Fred, email or call 859-759-0051.

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