Losers have five days to get their signs out of town - but so do winners under a new sign ordinance approved Wednesday night by the Farmington City Council.

The ordinance covers everything from billboards to the ubiquitous political campaign signs that sprout like dandelions in the weeks before an election.Under the new ordinance, candidates can post signs adjacent to city streets only within the two weeks preceding a primary or general election. Candidates who lose in a primary election have five days to remove their signs and all candidates, winners or losers, have five days after the general election to pull their signs.

The city also limits the number and size of signs that candidates may post: no more than two per building lot and no more than two per 100 feet of street frontage. Signs can't be any more than 6 square feet in size.

And candidates who nail a sign to a tree or attach one to a traffic sign pole within the city's right-of-way are also in violation of the new ordinance.

City planning administrator Craig Hinckley said the new ordinance is a complete rewrite of the old law and has been reviewed and rewritten numerous times over the past six months.

Mostly it offers better, clearer definitions of various types of signs, Hinckley said, which will allow for better enforcement. It also takes the review and approval process out of the hands of the planning commission, giving it to city staff members instead.

That will speed up the process for approving signs, Hinckley said, making it easier on applicants.

Another major change is the city's position on billboards. The first draft of the ordinance prohibited them entirely, Hinckley said, which advertisers and sign industry representatives said is unacceptable.

Billboards are allowed as a conditional use on property, reviewable by the planning commission in the new law.

At a public hearing before passage of the ordinance, Lagoon marketing director Dick Andrew said his company worked with Hinckley on drawing up the ordinance and is comfortable with it now.

Billboards that are defined as nonconforming uses under the new ordinance will be allowed to remain as long as they are maintained, Hinckley said. If they are abandoned or allowed to deteriorate, the city will have them removed.