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Council election plagued by sign woes

candidates by Jeff Switzer
Vandalism, theft and complaints of illegal size, all referring to campaign signs, plagued the Woodinville City Council race, and will more than likely be revisited in the future.
    Supporters of candidate Carol Bogue, and Bogue herself, relayed their concerns at the City Council meeting Nov. 6.
    Citizens gave accounts of signs stolen from their private property and the easements in front of them. Others told of vandalism, and of finding large piles of "Carol Bogue" signs in the woods.
    One person said meat was used to distract a watchdog at a residence while trespassers removed signs.
    "I went from frustration to anger to bewilderment," said Bogue, who told the council that all but six of her signs were taken. "Both adults and teens have been spotted."
    Sgt. Rich Krogh said four high school students were caught for stealing three signs from property owners. They were not charged, but must return the signs and write letters of apology to the property owners and to Bogue.
    As for the other several hundred signs taken and dumped into wooded areas, Krogh said the police had not been notified. It's up to the property owner to decide whether to mail in a report. Stealing a campaign sign is a criminal misdemeanor and can carry up to a $500 fine.
    The question of campaign signs that exceeded city size limits, subject of several complaints during the campaign, came up again in a mailing from the group that posted the signs, the Friends of Woodinville.
    In a publication they called the "Woodinville Free Press," the group admitted that the signs were, in fact, a violation of the Woodinville sign code.
    But they offered an explanation. "Once we found out the signs were illegal, we sat down with the City and worked out a legal solution," the mailing said.
    The ordinance states that political signs which do not exceed four square feet in area may be displayed on private property with the consent of the property owner.
    According to the City Attorney's office, a compromise was reached between the city and the property owners that allowed the oversized signs to remain if they were "tiled."
    The 32-square-foot signs were cut into into 4-square-foot pieces and then reassembled, bringing them into compliance with the code.
    The tiled signs were compared to the vacant building on Woodinville-Duvall Road just east of 156th NE where campaign signs had been posted in the windows. Taken together, the group of signs exceeded the 4-square-foot limit.
    "The interpretation is debatable," said City Attorney Wayne Tanaka. "The definition of a sign is the key. You have to ask 'What is a sign?'"
    City Manager Joe Meneghini said the issue of illegally-sized campaign signs may be revisited in the future.
    The City Attorney's office did not issue citations to the property owners where political signs were found to be in violation of the sign ordinance.