- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 5, 2002

Two Arlington, Va. men are fighting it out over small signs stapled to sticks in the ground.
Scott Small says his real estate ads announcing such things as open houses are lawful, and he has successfully prosecuted the man who has been pulling them out of the ground for close to two years.
Until last year when the courts intervened, Robert Lauderdale, computer specialist, tore down the signs with a fierce determination, arising before dawn over the weekend and during lunch hours at work.
He still calls the signs nothing but illegal refuse. "It's litter. It's trash . It's a blight on the landscape," he says. "It's litter on a stick."
"The law is not what he wants it to be," counters Mr. Small, who says Arlington's county code allows real-estate signs to be posted on public property from sundown Friday to sundown Sunday.
Arlington and Fairfax County Courts agreed and ordered Mr. Lauderdale to pay Mr. Small a total of $5,000 in damages.
Such matters are the origins of feuds.
"He pushed me to a point where he was threatening my livelihood," said Mr. Small, who said in a statement to police that he lost two clients and thousands of dollars from Mr. Lauderdale's removal of about 2,800 signs from 1999 to 2001.
Mr. Lauderdale is resolute. "I'm guilty of picking up litter," he insists.
He is continuing his cause by taking his case to the press and politicians. He said he admitted guilt and agreed to pay restitution because he couldn't afford a court battle. He is adamant, however, that the law is on his side. Mr. Small is equally adamant.
Mr. Lauderdale began ripping up the signs two years ago. He would get into his car at 5 a.m. each Saturday to conduct what he dubbed Operation Clean Sweep. He spent two or three hours driving along a three-mile stretch in Ballston, including Glebe Road, Lexington Street, Washington Boulevard and Lee Highway. He uprooted and removed between 60 and 100 signs each week.
One night last year, Mr. Small staked out Lexington Street at 2 a.m. and sat back to wait. When at around 6 a.m. he spotted Mr. Lauderdale pulling up his signs, he called police.
The police arrived as Mr. Lauderdale was trying to throw the signs into a Dumpster next to Washington-Lee High School. They handcuffed him and asked Mr. Small if he wanted to press charges. Mr. Small said, no, he just wanted his signs back.
As Mr. Lauderdale drove away, he saw Mr. Small hammering his signs back into the ground.
Mr. Small did press charges a week later, after, he said, Mr. Lauderdale defaced and vandalized his signs instead of removing them.
"He has given no proof that I have vandalized his signs," said Mr. Lauderdale, who did not deny the charges.
Mr. Small said Mr. Lauderdale often picked up only his signs and let his competitors' signs stand. Mr. Lauderdale said this is "100 percent false."
"I was in no way targeting him. I have no animosity towards him," he said.
In May, Mr. Lauderdale was arrested again for removing Mr. Small's signs, this time in Annandale on Sleepy Hollow Road, close to where he worked. Mr. Lauderdale said he would remove signs on lunch break or after work, and that it was a coincidence that the signs he removed were Mr. Small's.
In both cases, Mr. Lauderdale was ordered to pay $2,500 in damages to Mr. Small. Mr. Lauderdale made his last payment in December.
Mr. Lauderdale is concentrating on lobbying politicians and police, as well as organizing groups of people who, like him, dislike commercial clutter on the roads. "There are people who hate those signs more than I do," he said.
He remains convinced the law vindicates his cause. "The law seems to be designed for little old ladies with blue hair who are putting up 'for sale' signs, not commercial developers putting up hundreds of signs a week."
Mr. Small is confused about why Mr. Lauderdale has hounded him so vigorously. "I guess he doesn't like [the signs] because he thinks it's a big corporation and he can be David versus Goliath," he said.
Mr. Small says he wishes to be left alone. "Get a different hobby. Feed the homeless or something. But stop threatening my livelihood.
"I've been at this for 12 years. Obviously, if I was doing this illegally, I wouldn't still be doing it . I wouldn't have been able to go through the legal channels that I did."

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