City of Buffalo, NY
Erie County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents

§ 511-100 Use permit required.

In addition to any other requirements of law, no sign may be erected or remodeled except as hereinafter provided until a use permit is obtained. However, a use permit shall not be required for ordinary repairs and repainting or reposting of lawfully existing signs or for the erection or remodeling of exempt signs as indicated below. No use permit shall be issued for any sign unless the sign is permitted by and complies with the regulations of this article.

§ 511-101 More restrictive provisions to apply.

In a case where the general standards of a specific district are more restrictive than the regulations of this Article, the district regulations shall supersede the regulations of this Article.

§ 511-102 Additional definitions.

[Amended 10-5-2004, effective 10-15-2004]
A. 
For the purposes of this article, certain terms are herewith defined. When not inconsistent with the context, words used in the present tense include the future, words in the singular number include the plural, and words in the plural number include the singular. The word "shall" is always mandatory and not merely permissive.
B. 
As used in this article, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
ACCESSORY SIGN
An identification sign for the premises on which it is located or which advertises a product or service available on the premises on which it is located.
ALTER
Not deemed to include the changing of movable parts of a sign which is designed for such changes, or the repainting or the reposting of display matter.
BILLBOARD or POLE SIGN
A sign supported above the ground by one or more poles attached to a foundation in the ground, of whatever material constructed, and which is erected, used or maintained for the display of signs, and having a total area of more than five square feet.
GROUND SIGN
A sign at grade supported by framework attached to a foundation in the ground, of whatever material constructed, and which is erected, used or maintained for the display of signs, and having a total area of more than five square feet.
ILLUMINATED SIGN
A sign, as herein defined, which uses artificial light.
NONACCESSORY SIGN
A sign which does not identify the premises on which it is located or advertises a project or service which is not available on the premises on which it is located, and shall include billboards, ground signs and pole signs as described in Chapter 387, Signs, of the Code of the City of Buffalo, as well as any other device to be used for similar purposes.
PORTABLE SIGN
An accessory sign, illuminated or nonilluminated, which is not permanently affixed to the ground or to a building or structure.
PROJECTING SIGN
A sign which projects over the City right-of-way.
REPAIR
Includes all work which shall increase the area or height of a sign or substantially change the surface, framework, molding braces or anchors of a sign.
ROOF SIGN
A sign constructed upon the roof of a building.
SIGN
Includes a structure built or erected, used or maintained for the public display of an advertisement, announcement or direction in the form of a poster, picture, painted sign, illuminated sign or other reading or pictorial matter.
TEMPORARY SIGN
A real estate sign, construction sign, or banner containing temporary information.
WALL SIGN
A sign attached to or supported by the wall of a building, except a temporary sign.

§ 511-103 Exempt signs.

The following types of signs are exempt from the foregoing requirements and from all other regulations of this article:
A. 
Flags or emblems of a duly constituted governmental body or agency.
B. 
Signs of a duly constituted governmental body or agency, including traffic or similar regulatory devices, whether permanent or temporary, legal notices, warnings at railroad crossings and other instructional or regulatory signs related to health, hazards, parking, swimming, dumping and similar matters.
C. 
Memorial plaques, markers, monuments and tablets.
D. 
Address numerals and other signs required to be maintained by law or governmental order, rules or regulation, provided that the content and size of the sign does not exceed the requirement of such law, order, rule or regulation.
E. 
Small signs, not exceeding three square feet in area, conveying information necessary for the convenience of the public, including signs to identify such places as rest rooms, freight entrances and parking areas.
F. 
Decorations temporarily displayed in connection with local or national festivities, holidays or political activities and not otherwise regulated under this article.
G. 
Temporary signs, such as real estate signs, signs used in connection with the construction or remodeling of a building, or a banner containing temporary information, may be erected without regard to the area limitations in this article. Banner signs containing permanent information shall be regulated as permanent signs and shall be subject to area and content limitations.
[Amended 10-5-2004, effective 10-15-2004]
H. 
Nameplate signs, provided that such signs comply with area and other regulations of the district in which the building or use is located. Nameplate signs shall be attached flat against the main building and shall identify only the building itself and any lawful use. No flashing or animated illumination shall be permitted.

§ 511-104 General standards.

A. 
General standards applicable to all signs. All signs subject to the provisions of this Article shall comply with the following standards:
(1) 
Illumination of signs. Illuminated signs shall be shaded wherever necessary to avoid casting direct light upon residential property or upon any hospital or hotel.
(2) 
Flashing signs. Any illuminated sign or lighting device shall employ only lights emitting a light of constant intensity and shall not be illuminated by or contain any flashing, intermittent, rotating or moving light. A sign conveying time, temperature, stock market quotations or other information of a nonadvertising nature shall be exempt from this restriction, provided that said sign shall not exceed 18 inches in projection from the building to which it is attached and shall not exceed 18 inches projection over any street line and shall not exceed five feet in height and shall not exceed 450 square feet in total area, and further provided that said sign is used principally for displaying items of general public interest and is used for displaying advertising material in a minor degree. Such advertising material need not be restricted to the business of the owner or occupant of the premises whereon said sign is attached, provided that such advertising material is not displayed upon said sign for a total period of over 10 minutes in any period of one hour of use and operation, and provided that no continuous presentation of advertising shall exceed 10 minutes in duration and that any period of advertising shall be followed by news presentation of at least similar duration.
(3) 
Signs on trees or utility poles. No sign shall be attached to a tree or utility pole whether on public or private property.
(4) 
Sign area. No one shall erect on any lot a sign or signs which would cause the sign or signs on said lot to aggregate or total more than the total area per lot as listed below. The term "sign area" shall mean the gross surface area within a single continuous perimeter enclosing the extreme limits of a sign and in no case passing through or between any adjacent elements of the same. Such perimeter shall not include any structural or framing elements lying outside the limits of such sign and not forming an integral part of the display. For computing the area of any wall or other sign which consists only of letters mounted or painted on a wall or other base, the area shall be deemed to be the area of the smallest rectangular figure which can encompass all the letters. Only one side of a double-faced sign, that is, a back-to-back or V-type sign, shall be used in computing the total area of such sign.
(a) 
Lots in residential districts: Accessory signs shall comply with area and other regulations of the district in which they are located.
(b) 
Lots in the C1 Neighborhood Business District: 35 square feet per use, provided that exterior signs pertain only to a permitted use on the premises, are attached flat against the building, do not project above the roofline and do not face the side of any adjoining lot in any R District. An owner or operator of a gasoline service station located in a C1 District, however, may post one price sign in addition to the sign required by Chapter 219, Article I, of the Code of the City of Buffalo, to indicate the type of gasoline sold, the price of gasoline per gallon and the type of service offered by the station. This sign may be a pole sign or freestanding sign. Any pole sign installed in accordance with this article shall be limited to a height of 20 feet, and the sign shall not exceed a total area of 100 square feet. Any freestanding sign installed in accordance with this Article shall be securely anchored and shall not exceed a total area of 20 square feet.
(c) 
Lots in the C2 Community Business District: Accessory signs shall be limited to 35 square feet or the sum of one square foot for each linear foot of front lot line, whichever is greater.
(d) 
Lots in C3 Central Business District: Accessory signs shall be limited to 175 square feet or the sum of two square feet for each linear foot of front lot line, whichever is greater. No roof signs shall be permitted in the C3 District.
(e) 
Lots in the CM General Commercial District: Accessory signs shall be limited to 200 square feet or the sum of three square feet for each linear foot of front lot line, whichever is greater.
(f) 
Lots in industrial districts: Accessory signs shall be limited to 350 square feet or the sum of four square feet for each linear foot of front lot line, whichever is greater.
(5) 
Traffic safety. No sign shall be maintained at any location where, by reason of its position, size, shape or color, it may obstruct, impair, obscure or be confused with any traffic control sign, signal or device or where it may interfere with, mislead or confuse vehicular or pedestrian traffic.
B. 
Standards applicable to identification signs. Signs which identify a building or structure may be erected on the same lot with said building or structure. All identification signs shall comply with the following regulations:
(1) 
Real estate signs. Temporary real estate signs shall comply with the following regulations:
(a) 
In the case of property devoted to low- or high-rise apartment uses, there shall be permitted one sale or lease sign not to exceed 12 square feet in area; provided, however, that where more than six lots located in the same subdivision are offered for sale or rental by the same party, the area of such sign or signs may be not more than 35 square feet in the aggregate.
(b) 
In the case of property devoted to an industrial or manufacturing use, there shall be permitted not more than four sale or lease signs. No such sign or signs shall exceed in the aggregate 70 square feet in area.
(c) 
In the case of property devoted to any other use, there shall be permitted not more than two sale or lease signs not to exceed in the aggregate 70 square feet in area.
(2) 
Business identification signs. Business identification signs shall comply with all applicable provisions of this chapter. A business identification sign or signs identifying a retail business or profession conducted or a commodity or service sold or offered in substantial amounts upon the premises shall be permitted as accessory to each business, commercial or industrial use.
C. 
Standards applicable to nonaccessory signs. Nonaccessory signs shall not be erected to any residential district. In the C1 Neighborhood Business District, no nonaccessory sign or signs shall be erected. In the C2 Community Business District, C3 Central Business District, CM General Commercial District and in all industrial districts, nonaccessory signs shall be permitted subject to the following regulations. No nonaccessory sign shall be erected along the river or lakefronts west of the New York State Thruway, the Buffalo Skyway or Fuhrman Boulevard.
(1) 
In the C2, C3 and CM Districts:
(a) 
Only one nonaccessory sign structure shall be permitted on any lot with 100 linear feet of street frontage or less and only one additional structure for an additional 100 linear feet of street frontage or major fraction thereof. No such structure shall contain more than one sign per facing that shall not exceed 675 square feet.
[1] 
No nonaccessory sign shall be located within 300 feet of another such structure located on the same side of the street. In the case of a nonaccessory sign facing a limited access highway or expressway, no such structure shall be located within a distance of 1,000 feet of any such structure located on the same side of such highway.
[2] 
No nonaccessory sign shall exceed an overall height above ground at the base of such sign of 40 feet, except that, for a sign oriented to an elevated road or highway, such height may be increased to that of 30 feet above the pavement level of the elevated road.
(2) 
In industrial districts:
(a) 
Only one nonaccessory sign structure shall be permitted on any lot with 100 linear feet of street frontage or less and only one additional structure for an additional 100 linear feet of street frontage or major fraction thereof.
(b) 
No such structure shall contain over two signs per facing, and if the structure contains two signs per facing (that is, facing the same direction), neither sign shall exceed 300 square feet in area. In lieu of two signs per facing, one larger sign may be erected, not to exceed 675 square feet in area, exclusive of customary extensions and embellishments that do not exceed 20% of that area.
(c) 
No nonaccessory sign structure shall be located within 300 feet of another such structure located on the same side of the street. In the case of a nonaccessory sign facing a limited access highway or expressway, no such structure shall be located within a distance of 1,000 feet of any other such structure located on the same side of such highway.
(d) 
No nonaccessory sign shall exceed an overall height above ground at the base of such sign of 40 feet, except that, for a sign oriented to an elevated road or highway, such height may be increased to that of 30 feet above the pavement level of the elevated road.
(3) 
No nonaccessory sign shall be erected within 300 feet of any residential district if it would face such district and be visible therefrom.
(4) 
No nonaccessory sign shall be erected next to a building in any zoning district used for residential purposes when closer than 40 feet to any window of an existing residential as measured from the sign to the window. No nonaccessory sign shall be erected within 10 feet of a building in any zoning district used for residential purposes even when such sign is not visible from any window of existing residential units.
(5) 
No nonaccessory sign shall be erected within 200 feet of any public park or parkway if it would face such park or parkway and be visible therefrom.
(6) 
No nonaccessory sign shall face Delaware Avenue between Chippewa Street and North Street if it would be within 200 feet thereof and visible therefrom.
(7) 
No nonaccessory sign shall be closer to any street line than the front line of the nearest building within 50 feet; provided, however, that when a nonaccessory sign is erected between two buildings within 50 feet of the structure, no part of the sign structure shall be erected closer to any street line than a line drawn from the nearest front corner of the two buildings.
(8) 
Except as otherwise may be provided in this chapter, any sign which for a period of three years has not been repainted or reposted and on which the message on which has been removed or is totally or partially illegible or absent, or which pertains to a time, event or purpose which no longer applies, shall be deemed to have been abandoned. An abandoned sign is prohibited by this chapter, and such sign and its structure shall be removed by the owner of the premises if not by the owner of the sign. Failure to remove an abandoned sign and sign structure, as described above, shall be a violation of this chapter. If the owner or lessee shall refuse or neglect to remove the sign and sign structure within three months after delivery of a notice from the Commissioner of Inspections and Licenses, the Commissioner may cause the sign and sign structure to be removed and the expense thereof shall be assessed against the owner of the property n which the sign is located in accordance with the provisions of the Charter of the City relating to assessments. Delivery of the notice may be made by personal service thereof or by registered mail to the last known address of the owner.
(9) 
Modification of sign regulations. An applicant seeking modification of sign regulations contained in this Article may submit a request for modification to the City Planning Board. The Board shall investigate the request and present its findings and recommendation to the Common Council within one month of its receipt of the matter. The Common Council may authorize and direct the approval or denial of a permit for the requested modification on the basis of the effect of such permit on the public health and welfare.
(10) 
Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, roof-mounted nonaccessory signs which existed at the effective date of this amendment shall be permitted to remain, but no further roof-mounted nonaccessory signs shall be permitted.
(11) 
Existing nonaccessory signs, including billboards, pole signs and similar advertising devices, which do not meet the regulations of this amendment on the effective date of this amendment shall be removed or brought into compliance herewith within four years of the effective date of this amendment.
(12) 
No person, firm or corporation shall erect or maintain any nonaccessory sign unless all required permits or licenses have been issued by the Director of Housing and Inspections therefor.
[Added 7-21-1992, effective 8-3-1992]
(13) 
No license shall be issued or renewed by the Director unless:
[Added 7-21-1992, effective 8-3-1992]
(a) 
The Director determines that a nonaccessory sign and its support structure which is proposed to be erected or which is erected or maintained is in conformity with all applicable provisions of this Code and that such person, firm or corporation has fully complied with all requirements thereof.
(b) 
Against such person, firm or corporation there exist no outstanding violations for which all administrative remedies or legal appeals have been exhausted nor any outstanding court orders requiring the removal of any sign(s) for which all legal appeals have been exhausted, for erecting and/or maintaining nonaccessory signs in violation of this Code.
(c) 
In addition to any bond required elsewhere in this Code, the owner of a nonaccessory sign shall file a bond with the Comptroller in the penal sum of $5,000 protecting the City against the cost of removal and/or demolition of any nonaccessory sign found to be unsafe or a public nuisance or which is required to be removed and/or demolished for being in violation of the provisions of this Code. Said bond shall be approved as to form by the Corporation Counsel and as to sufficiency by the Comptroller. The City may proceed against the surety of such bond in the event that the owner of a nonaccessory sign fails to remove such sign within 30 days of the date of an order from the Director of Housing and Inspections to remove the same.
(14) 
The Director of Housing and Inspections shall issue licenses and license tags annually for all nonaccessory sign facings within the City of Buffalo:
[Added 7-21-1992, effective 8-3-1992]
(a) 
Each license tag shall be of a size and color so as to be easily read from the footway and/or street or highway. The tag shall contain a license number peculiar to that sign facing which shall be visible from the footway and/or street or highway. Renewal stickers shall be issued annually by the Director, and the color of such sticker shall change annually.
(b) 
The owner of a nonaccessory sign shall cause the license tag and renewal sticker to be affixed to such sign in the place and manner as directed by the Director of Housing and Inspections.
(15) 
Enforcement.
[Added 7-21-1992, effective 8-3-1992]
(a) 
The Director of Housing and Inspections or his designee shall inspect all nonaccessory signs to be sure they are structurally safe, that they comply to all other appropriate sections of this Code and that they have a valid annual license, and he may abate any nonaccessory sign erected, constructed or maintained in violation of this Code.
(b) 
Any sign and/or sign structure which does not conform to the requirements of this Code shall be deemed to be a public nuisance.
(c) 
Whenever a nonaccessory sign is erected and/or maintained in violation of the provisions of this Code, the Director of Licenses shall serve written notice of such violations upon the violator, directing compliance within 30 days of the receipt of the notice of violation. In the case where ownership cannot be determined or notice cannot be delivered, the Director of Housing and Inspections shall place a violation notice upon the sign and/or sign structure.
(d) 
After expiration of the time for compliance as stated in the notice of violation (30 days), if the violation has not been corrected and no appeal is pending, the Director of Housing and Inspections may cause the removal and/or demolition of the offending sign. The costs incurred by the City shall be charged against the person owning such offending sign or against the bond posted by the individual or company that owns or erected and maintains the offending sign. If the sign was unlicensed or abandoned, the property owner on whose premises the sign is located shall be responsible for the cost of removal.
(e) 
If any violation of the provisions of this Code results in an immediate peril to persons or property, the Director of Housing and Inspections may require immediate compliance.
(16) 
Penalties. The penalty for violation of any term or condition of a license or any provision of this Code dealing with nonaccessory signs and/or structures, shall be a fine of $300 which shall be imposed for each and every violation cited. Each day the Code is violated shall be deemed a separate offense for which a separate penalty may be imposed.
[Added 7-21-1992, effective 8-3-1992]
(17) 
Severability. If any provision, sentence, clause or part of this section is for any reason found to be unconstitutional, illegal or invalid, such unconstitutionality, illegality or invalidity shall not affect or impair any of the remaining provisions, sentences, clauses or parts of the ordinances dealing with nonaccessory signs. It is the intent of this legislation that it would have been adopted had such unconstitutional, illegal or invalid provision, sentence, clause, section or part thereof not been included herein.
[Added 7-21-1992, effective 8-3-1992]

§ 511-104.1 through § 511-104.5 (Reserved)

§ 511-104.6 Area for attachment to streetlighting standards.

[Added 12-9-2003, effective 12-19-2003]
A. 
The total permissible sign area allowed when signs are attached to streetlighting standards by two clamping bands shall be as follows:
(1) 
Twenty-five-foot standards:
(a) 
From ground to height of 11.5 feet: 15 square feet.
(b) 
From height of 11.5 feet to 19.5 feet: 2.25 square feet.
(2) 
Thirty-foot standards:
(a) 
From ground to height of 14 feet: 15 square feet.
(b) 
From height of 14 feet to 24.5 feet: 2.25 square feet.
B. 
If signs are attached by bolting or welding to standards, the total permissible area of signs in Subsection A(1) and (2) shall be reduced 50%.
C. 
The same total permissible area shall apply to decorations when same have been authorized by the Common Council.