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Signs
Sign Information Table
Please review the Permitted Sign Table for more specific details on Display Signs for the City of St. Francis.

Sign Ordinance

City of St. Francis - Chapter 380 Signs

As used in this article, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:

COMMERCIAL

For the purpose of promoting or advertising for sale or distribution to the general public.

OFF SITE

Being on a different legally described parcel of land as the building or business, even if on a contiguous parcel of land.

ON SITE

Being on the same legally described parcel of land as the building or business.

SIGN

Any printed, drawn or painted words, pictures, caricatures or descriptions of any size posted to be viewed by the general public.

All commercial off-site signs are hereby prohibited.

All commercial off-site signs existing on the effective date of this article shall be removed by March 19, 1988.

Any person who shall violate any provision of this article or any order, rule or regulation made hereunder shall be subject to a penalty as provided in § 1-4 of this Code.

Article II: General Regulations

[Adopted 12-20-2005 by Ord. No. 1207 (§ 14.15 of the 1981 Code)]

The purposes of the sign regulations of this article are to promote the effective use of signs as a means of communication; to maintain and enhance the aesthetic environment of the City; to promote pedestrian and vehicular safety; to protect property values by minimizing the adverse effects of signs; and to provide a procedure for fair and consistent enforcement. These purposes will be accomplished by:

A. Establishing a permit system to allow a broad variety of sign types in commercially and industrially zoned districts and a limited variety of signs in other zoned districts, subject to the standards and procedures of this article;

B. Allowing certain signs in residentially zoned districts that are small, unobtrusive and incidental to the principal use of the respective premises on which they are located, subject to the substantive requirements of this article, but without a requirement for permits;

C. Prohibiting all signs not expressly permitted by this article;

D. Prohibiting all signs which have the potential for disrupting or distracting vehicular traffic; and

E. Providing for the enforcement of this article.

As used in this article, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:

EAVE

The lower edge of an angled roof of a building or the top edge of the wall of flat-roofed buildings. Surfaces at an angle of 20º or less from vertical are to be considered as wall rather than roof.

GROSS SIGN AREA

The aggregate area of all display signs on premises, excluding signs exempted in § 380-9 and advertising signs authorized under § 380-11.

OUTDOOR SALES AREA

That portion of a site used for the outdoor conduct of business or for display and selection of merchandise.

PREMISES

A parcel or part thereof used as the location of a particular business and its accessory uses, such as customer parking, yard, etc. If more than one business occupies a building, that part of the first story occupied by a particular business and the lot directly in front of such business, unless larger assemblage is declared as the premises by the owner of such building.

R-3B ZONING

An R-3 zoning of which the principal use is business.

R-3R ZONING

An R-3 zoning of which the principal use is residential.

SIGNABLE AREA

The area of the facade of a building up to the eave which is free of windows, doors and major architectural detail.

SIGN, ADVERTISING

Any display sign on which the message is not exclusively related to the use of the premises on which the sign is located.

SIGN, AREA OF

A. The total exterior surface of a sign having one exposed display surface or 1/2 of such total for a sign having more than one display surface, including structural members which frame the display surface, but not the supporting members.

B. For characters individually mounted on a building wall and painted display signs integrated into decorative wall graphics, the area within a line circumscribed closely around each word of the display.

SIGN, DETACHED

Any display sign which, with its supporting structure, is situated on the site independent of any building.

SIGN, DISPLAY

Any display, including its supporting structure and component parts, intended to be observed from outside for advertising, announcement or identification, in any medium, excluding official street signs.

SIGN, HEIGHT OF

The distance from the grade at the base of a detached sign to the highest point on the sign or its supporting structure.

SIGN, HOME OCCUPATION

Any display indicating the presence of a home occupation as defined in Chapter 455, Zoning, of this Code. Editor's Note: Amended at time of adoption of Code (see Ch. 1, General Provisions, Art. II).

SIGN, PROJECTING

Any display signs other than a flat sign that is mounted on the wall of a building.

SIGN, ROOF

Any display sign mounted on a building situated in total or in part above the eave of that part of the building to which it is mounted.

SIGN, WINDOW

Any display sign which is affixed to a building on the inside of a window, including those painted on the glass.

WIDTH, BUILDING

The width of a building or the total of the widths of buildings on a premises as viewed if all the front walls were projected to a common plane at the front property line, not including any portions which are obstructed in such view.

No display sign may be erected without a permit issued by the Building Inspector. This does not apply to face changes of existing signs.

A. Application for permit shall include a scale drawing of the sign showing materials, message, colors and construction; a scale drawing or photo of the building facade with sign location, if building mounted; a scale plot plan showing detached sign location and relevant site features; and an inventory of all existing display signs on the premises with dimensions and areas.

B. Permit applications for all signs, except those exempted in § 380-9, shall be accompanied by a fee.

(1) Permit fees for signs, including temporary signs that require a permit, are provided by the current fee schedule on file with the City Clerk.

(2) Double fees. Where work for which a permit is required by this article is begun before a permit has been obtained, the fees specified shall be doubled, but the payment of such double fees shall not relieve any persons from complying fully with the requirements of this article.

All display signs shall conform to the following:

A. Architectural compatibility. No display sign may cover doors, windows or other major architectural detail. A display sign shall be designed to be as compatible as is practicable with the design of the building to which it relates and to the surroundings.

B. Avoid needless elaboration. All display signs on any premises in aggregate shall avoid unnecessary repetition of information.

C. Consolidation of signs. To the greatest extent practicable and consistent with design objectives, display signs on any premises shall be consolidated in common signs or supporting structures.

D. Distracting signs prohibited. No display signs shall include flashing or alternating illumination, moving parts, moving or alternating message displays or searchlights, be similar to traffic signs, or cast direct light upon adjacent properties or public rights-of-way. Electrified time and temperature or operational displays are not prohibited.

E. Maintenance required.

(1) All display signs and their supporting structures, including chains and cables, shall be properly maintained:

(a) To prevent rust, rot, peeling, fading or similar deterioration.

(b) To prevent becoming so out of repair as to be dangerous and unsafe to members of the public or property.

(c) In such manner that complies with the construction and stability provisions of Subsection J of this section

(2) No sign shall be in such a state of disrepair that it is an obvious detriment to the visual character of the neighborhood and would be considered a devaluing influence upon it.

(3) If the Building Inspector determines that a sign(s) is not being maintained in accordance with this subsection, the Building Inspector may issue a written notice and order to the property owner describing the defects and setting forth the corrections required. If a property owner fails to make the required corrections set forth in the order within 30 days of receipt of the order, the City may prosecute an action for an order of the court requiring the owner to comply with the order.

F. Obsolete signs. Any display sign which no longer relates to the use of the premises due to a change in occupancy or use or any advertising sign which no longer advertises a bona fide business, product or service shall be removed within 15 days of the change which rendered such sign obsolete by the owner thereof. If an obsolete sign is not removed within the fifteen-day period, the Building Inspector may issue a written notice and order to the property owner to remove the sign. If the property owner fails to remove the sign within 30 days of receipt of the order, the City may prosecute an action for an order of the court requiring the owner to comply with the order.

G. Not to face residence district. Display signs which face a lot line of any lot in a residence district shall be not less than 50 feet from that lot line.

H. Residence districts. In any residence district only temporary or home occupation signs shall be permitted.

I. Clearance. There shall be a clearance of at least 10 feet between any projecting part or span of any display sign and any ground surface intended for or likely to be used for pedestrian or vehicular movement, except where a raised planter is maintained beneath the projection or span.

J. Construction and stability. Display signs shall be constructed to withstand a wind pressure of at least 30 pounds per square foot of surface and shall be structurally safe and securely anchored so they will not be a menace to persons or property. Electrified signs shall be wired to conform to the National Electric Code and rigidly mounted so as not to swing. Building-mounted signs shall be adequately grounded where exposed to lightning. Flat-mounted wall signs shall not extend more than one foot beyond the wall surface and may exceed 24 square feet only if made of incombustible materials or approved combustible plastics as defined in the Standard A60.1-1975 of the American National Standards Institute. Wooden supporting members shall be treated to prevent decomposition wherever they contact the ground. All display signs and the premises surrounding them shall be maintained and be kept free of noxious weeds and rubbish.

K. Corner lots and multiple frontages. Regulation of premises located on corner lots in districts other than B-2 shall be based on the larger street frontage. Regulations shall be applied independently for each street or parking lot frontage of any premises:

(1) Having frontage on two or more streets which do not intersect adjacent to such premises;

(2) Having frontage on a parking lot having multiple users and not abutting the street frontage of such premises; or

(3) Located on a corner lot in the B-2 District.

L. Corner vision. Display signs shall be designed and located in a manner that will not obstruct visibility at street and driveway intersections. There shall be a minimum vision clearance of 15 feet on local streets and 50 feet on arterial streets.

M. Roof signs. In districts where permitted, only the following roof signs may be authorized and only on a roof of one story in height:

(1) Time and temperature displays having no commercial message or identification.

(2) Individually mounted letters of 30 inches or less in height mounted directly at and not extending below the eave.

N. Signs on public rights-of-way.

(1) Except for official street signs, no permanent sign may be erected on any public right-of-way.

(2) Temporary signs are prohibited on all public rights-of-way except:

(a) Official street signs and signs used during construction to warn motorists and pedestrians of potential hazards or traffic direction; and

(b) Banners as regulated and approved by the Common Council.

The following display signs are exempt from the display area limits of this article in districts where permitted:

A. Time and temperature displays;

B. Unlighted signs having characters four inches or less in height located in an outdoor sales area and related to the business conducted therein;

C. One sign of 20 square feet or less in area for each street frontage displaying only the price of gasoline sold on the premises and the hours of operation;

D. On-site operational signs of not over five square feet in area needed to control traffic, parking, access, etc., but not including any commercial message;

E. Signs on theaters limited to current attractions and show times, not to exceed a one- or two-faced panel board of up to 80 square feet per face, mounted flat on a marquee or wall, and two wall-mounted poster displays of up to nine square feet each;

F. One Wisconsin and one United States flag per premises plus one flag per premises no larger than five feet by eight feet and no higher than 30 feet containing the logo of the business on that premises; and

G. Signs advertising municipal functions, such as 4th of July, St. Francis Day, etc.

Display signs as listed below may be temporarily erected in districts where permitted, exempt from area limits and subject to approval as provided herein. All such signs shall be erected and maintained in a safe and attractive manner and shall be subject to applicable regulations except as specifically modified herein.

A. Signs advertising the sale, rental or lease of the premises on which the sign is located may be erected in any district and shall be removed within one week of the date of sale, rental or lease. Signs of up to 20 square feet for one- and two-family properties and up to 32 square feet for other properties require no approval.

B. A sign 32 square feet or less identifying the future use of the premises and contractors involved in the construction may be erected without authorization in any district on a site under construction with approval of the Building Inspector and the City Engineer. Such signs may be erected up to one year before construction begins and shall be removed upon completion of the project.

C. Signs, flags and banners relating to temporary promotions on the premises being promoted may be authorized by the Building Inspector for a period not to exceed two weeks. Displays on the sites of builders' model homes may be authorized by the Building Inspector for the duration of their use as models. Editor's Note: Amended at time of adoption of Code (see Ch. 1, General Provisions, Art. II).

D. Temporary display signs may be affixed without authorization to the inside of windows in all districts except residence districts, not to cover over 15% of the area of the window to which the signs are affixed, not to be displayed for more than six weeks for any particular sign.

E. Signs identifying or promoting candidates for public office may be erected without authorization, to be removed within two weeks following the election to which the sign relates. In residence districts, such signs may not exceed nine square feet in area. This would apply to a sign which is affixed to a permanent structure and does not extend beyond the perimeter of the structure if the sign does not obstruct a window, door, fire escape, ventilation shaft or other area which is required by an applicable building code to remain unobstructed. In order to ensure traffic and pedestrian safety, no sign identifying or promoting candidates for public office may be placed within five feet of the sidewalk or front property line. No such signs may have an electrical, mechanical or audio auxiliary.

F. Signs regarding matters of public concern may be erected without authorization. In residence districts, such signs may not exceed nine square feet in area. This would apply to a sign which is affixed to a permanent structure and does not extend beyond the perimeter of the structure if the sign does not obstruct a window, door, fire escape, ventilation shaft or other area which is required by an applicable building code to remain unobstructed. In order to ensure traffic and pedestrian safety, no sign identifying or promoting candidates for public office may be placed within five feet of the sidewalk or front property line. No such signs may have an electrical, mechanical or audio auxiliary.

Advertising signs shall be exempt from the area limitations for the premises on which the sign is located but shall be subject to the general regulations set forth in § 380-8 except as modified herein.

A. No advertising sign shall be authorized within 400 feet of another advertising sign on the same side of any one street.

B. No advertising sign shall be authorized which exceeds 20 feet in height or 750 square feet in area or which is located within 25 feet of the front lot line.

C. No advertising sign shall be authorized which is visible from any lot in a residence district or used for residential purposes and which is within 400 feet from the nearest lot line of any occupied parcel. Such use shall automatically terminate when development occurs on any lot within 400 feet of the sign.

D. Advertising signs may be an interim use of undeveloped land in any district. Such signs shall be located at least 400 feet from the nearest lot line of any occupied parcel. Such use shall automatically terminate when development occurs on any lot within 400 feet of the sign.

E. All advertising signs shall:

(1) Be of design compatible with the building or other structure on or adjacent to its site;

(2) Be integrated into the overall landscape scheme of its site;

(3) Avoid obstruction of any view of scenic or historic importance;

(4) Avoid restriction of light, air or view from windows;

(5) Avoid interference with the right of adjacent property to visibility; and

(6) Be attractive on all sides visible to passersby or from adjacent property.

A. Removal of nonconforming signs. The lawful use of a display sign existing at the time of an amendment to this article which becomes nonconforming as a result of such amendment may be maintained as nonconforming sign. Thereafter, the use of any such nonconforming sign shall terminate and it shall be removed or otherwise made to comply with requirements of this article by the owner thereof when a permit would be required under this article.

B. Alteration of nonconforming signs. Any display sign existing as of the effective date of any amendment to this article and not conforming to the provisions of this article, when removed from its mounting or when the facing thereof is altered, shall not be reerected or maintained unless the sign, location, and construction thereof are made to conform to the provisions of this article. The change of copy of any display sign should not be considered an alteration. The change of copy shall apply only to display signs which are designed to be changed at regular intervals, such as billboards, theater marquees or grocery stores. Such change of copy shall not include the insertion of new or different panels in existing framework which alters or changes the message of such preexisting framework. Editor's Note: Amended at time of adoption of Code (see Ch. 1, General Provisions, Art. II).

The following table is attached to and made part of this article. Editor's Note: The table is included at the end of this chapter. Display signs shall conform to the limitations on size, area and number set forth in the table for each zoning district and shall be prohibited where so designated.

Any person aggrieved by a decision of the Building Inspector under this article may apply for a variance pursuant to the terms of Chapter 455, Zoning, of this Code and the provisions thereunder shall apply.

Any person who shall violate any provision of this article or any regulation, rule or order made hereunder shall be subject to a penalty as provided in § 1-4 of this Code.