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Penn Hills officials say they're unable to keep up with illegal sign postings

Samson X Horne
| Thursday, May 26, 2016, 7:36 p.m.
Illegally posted signs are visible along Frankstown Road (state Route 380).
Illegally posted signs are visible along Frankstown Road (state Route 380).
Illegally posted signs are visible along Allegheny River Boulevard (state Route 130).
Illegally posted signs are visible along Allegheny River Boulevard (state Route 130).

Some Penn Hills officials say they have lost control of regulating signage within the municipality.

“It's just hard to police,” said Planning Director Chris Blackwell. “It's difficult to regulate and one of the hardest things for code enforcement to enforce.

“It's overwhelming.”

Pennsylvania law states that it is unlawful to place signs, banners and advertisements across structures within the legal limits of state highways, without obtaining written consent from PennDOT.

Longtime Penn Hills resident Gary English said the issue has gotten to the point where some utility poles have six or more signs posted, one atop the other.

In the past, code enforcement personnel would drive around and “pull (the illegal signs) off” of utility poles and overpasses and away from close proximity to the shoulders of roads, but offenders would post them higher and with sturdier anchors, Blackwell said.

“We had trunks full of (the signs),” he said.

PennDOT spokesman Steve Cowan said that whenever crews see signs that are improperly placed in the state's right-of-way, the signs are removed.

“We don't, however, have a crew that is dedicated solely for sign removal. Our crews will remove signs if they come across them or if they are reported,” Cowan said.

Blackwell said that even though every sign requires a permit and all of the temporary signs seen about the municipality are illegal, enforcement of signage laws in Penn Hills has been on the “back burner” since they don't present safety issues.

“We don't have the manpower to go around pulling signs off, and it would be a full-time job to get the businesses to take them down,” Blackwell said. “We just confiscate as many as we can.”

He compared the signs to discarded bottles on a beach.

“Somebody sees one and they think it's OK to throw another one out, and then there's another,” he said.

English wants officials in Penn Hills to find a way to limit illegal sign postings in his community.

“The sign pollution is a disgrace and our town officials have allowed the municipality to become a pigpen,” he said.

“Along with cleaning up the signage, there needs to be a housecleaning with municipal officials.”

Samson X Horne is a Tribune-Review staff writer. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or

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