What are the applicable state and local regulations regarding political signs? (11/8/2022)

The regulations for signs are nuanced for two main reasons.  First; the first amendment.  This nuance mostly limits the ability to regulate signage based on content (including different rules for political signs vs. real estate signs vs. business signs).  Second; the jurisdiction.  The State regulates the placement of signs in the right-of-way (ROW) of State roads and those regulations supersede the Town’s regulations.  With that (brief) background, please find applicable regulations below.

State Regulations

RSA 664:17 is the primary regulation which contemplates the placement and removal of political advertising.  The law requires owner’s consent which, would mean the abutting property owner over which the road right-of-way passes.  The law requires that the political advertising does not obstruct the safe flow of traffic.  The law requires removal of political advertising ‘no later than the second Friday following the election’, but does not contemplate how soon the signs can go up.  According to the Town’s attorney, there is no state law or case law which addresses when political advertising can go up. 

There are additional State laws which the Attorney General has recently summarized in the following news release: https://www.doj.nh.gov/news/2022/20221018-political-advertising-signs.htm

Local Regulations

Barrington regulates signs in the Zoning Ordinance (ZO); Article 20.  Specifically, ZO 20.8 contemplates Temporary Signs.  Political signs are most specifically addressed in 20.8.4 on residential lots which says that ‘additional’ signs (six square feet or less) do not require a permit 30 days prior to an election (with property owner permission) and must be removed 10 days following the election.  There are also limits on permits for temporary signs larger than six square feet.  There are additional requirements in 20.8 which may apply to political advertising (lighting, for example).  Commercially approved lots must comply with ZO 20.9.  ZO 20.2.4(1) and 20.2.5(1) say that signs are not allowed in a right-of way.  Zoning Table 1, first section – ‘sign type free standing standards’ says that all signs must be set back 5-15’ from the edge of the ROW (not edge of property line), depending on the district.  Oftentimes, an ROW is the roadside stonewall and these ZO’s require signs to be placed 5-15’ back from the edge of the ROW.

Questions or concerns about the applicability or enforcement of the Zoning Ordinance should be directed to the Code Enforcement Office: building@barrington.nh.gov