Town of Tonawanda, NY
Erie County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[Added 12-20-1982 by L.L. No. 9-1982; amended 1-30-1984 by L.L. No. 1-1984; 6-4-1984 by L.L. No. 9-1984; 1-11-1988 by L.L. No. 1-1988; 2-24-1992 by L.L. No. 1-1992; 10-5-1992 by L.L. No. 6-1992; 10-20-1997 by L.L. No. 4-1997]

§ 215-140 Purpose; general regulations.

A. 
The purpose of this article is to promote and protect the public health, welfare and safety by regulating existing and proposed signs which are visible from streets or other public areas or from one property to another. It is intended to protect property values, create a more attractive economic and business climate, enhance and protect the physical appearance of the community, preserve the scenic and natural beauty of designated areas and provide a more enjoyable and pleasing community. It is further the purpose of this article to reduce visual distractions and obstructions that may contribute to traffic accidents, to reduce hazards that may be caused by signs overhanging or projecting above public rights-of-way, to provide more open space and to curb the deterioration of natural beauty and community environment.
B. 
In general, all signs shall be permanently mounted and securely anchored. Signs and billboards shall not in any way obstruct required door or window areas of any building or structure. Signs shall not be attached to or placed upon any portion of a fire escape and shall not in any way interfere with the activities of the Fire Department.

§ 215-141 Definitions.

Sign-related definitions are provided in § 215-4, entitled "Definitions," where they are listed under the subheading "Sign-related definitions."

§ 215-142 Applicability.

[Amended 3-26-2007 by L.L. No. 2-2007]
This article establishes standards for the number, size, placement and physical appearance of signs within all of the zoning districts of the Town of Tonawanda. The regulations do not restrict the contents of signs. With the exception of the types of signage exempted in § 215-143 herein, no sign shall hereafter be erected, enlarged, altered, rebuilt, extended, relocated or used within the Town of Tonawanda, outside of the corporate limits of the Village of Kenmore, unless a permit for such sign is first obtained from the Code Enforcement Officer of the Town of Tonawanda.

§ 215-142.1 Contractor signs.

[Added 10-5-1998 by L.L. No. 1-1998]
A. 
Contractor signs shall be allowed in any zoning district of the Town; provided, however, that not more than one such sign shall be permitted to be located at the same time on the same premises in residential districts and that such sign may be located and displayed on the premises only during the period in which actual construction, improvements, repairs or other services to be performed by the identified contractor are being actively and diligently pursued to completion. All contractor signs shall be completely removed from a premises, either by the property owner or by the contractor or agent owning or having placed such signs, within 10 days following the completion of the work or services to which they relate.
B. 
A contractor sign shall not have a computed surface area in excess of 12 square feet of total face area.
C. 
A contractor sign shall only be located on the premises on which the activity is located and shall not be located in any right-of-way.

§ 215-143 Exempt signs.

[Amended 9-13-2010 by L.L. No. 5-2010]
The types of signs listed below are exempt from the requirement of a permit. In addition, the face area and number of such exempt signs shall not be counted in determining compliance with the provisions of this article.
A. 
Repainting, cleaning or other normal maintenance and repair of a conforming sign or conforming sign structure, including the replacement of parts, unless a structural change is made.
B. 
Integral, decorative or architectural features of a building, except letters or trademarks.
C. 
Traffic control signs on private property that contain no advertising and that are no larger than 12 square feet in face area.
D. 
Signs erected and maintained pursuant to and in discharge of any governmental function, including state or federal historic markers, or required by any law, ordinance or governmental regulation.
E. 
Memorial tablets or signs, locally designated historic markers, names of buildings and dates of erection when cut in any masonry surface or when constructed of bronze or any other noncombustible material.
F. 
Flags, emblems or insignias of the United States, the State of New York, other countries and states, the United Nations or similar organizations of which this nation is a member.
G. 
Signs for the direction or convenience of the public, including signs which identify restrooms, the location of public telephones or other public convenience facilities, not to exceed four square feet in size.
H. 
Traffic control devices.
I. 
A project name sign on a premises where construction is in progress indicating the name of the project and participating private and public agencies and officials, no larger than 32 square feet in face area, not greater than 15 feet in height and located so as not to create a vision obstruction.
J. 
Any sign or banner permitted by a municipality or other governmental authority to be located in a public place.
K. 
Signs prohibiting trespassing no larger than one square foot with no more than two sides and located at least two feet from any lot line.
L. 
Wall signs not exceeding six square feet in face area on a building open to the public, bearing the name and business of the occupants.
M. 
Wall signs or ground signs advertising the sale or rental of real estate, in accordance with the following limitations:
(1) 
Within the A First and B Second Residential, and M-F Multifamily Dwelling Districts, one sign not to exceed six square feet in face area.
(2) 
Within the C-1 Restricted Business, C General Business, C-2 Commercial, NB Neighborhood Business, P-S Performance Standards Use, G-1 General Industrial and TND Traditional Neighborhood Design Districts, two signs with a maximum of 32 square feet in face area each.
[Amended 2-23-2015 by L.L. No. 1-2015]
(3) 
Within the WMU Waterfront Mixed Use, WB Waterfront Business, WID Waterfront Industrial, and RHC Retail Highway Commerce Districts, and on any property within a G-I General Industrial District which has frontage on River Road, one wall sign or ground sign not to exceed 32 square feet in face area.
(4) 
Such signs shall not be located on public rights-of-way or create a vision obstruction within a public right-of-way.

§ 215-144 Prohibited signs.

[Amended 10-1-2007 by L.L. No. 7-2007; 9-13-2010 by L.L. No. 5-2010]
A. 
The construction, erection, alteration, reconstruction, display, ownership, maintenance or operation of any sign within the Town except as provided by this article is hereby prohibited.
B. 
The following types of signs are prohibited:
(1) 
Signposts are specifically prohibited from the public right-of-way with the exception of those that are necessary or recommended by the State of New York Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices.
(2) 
Signs overhanging the public right-of-way are specifically prohibited except as provided by this article.
(3) 
The use of reflectorized materials of any kind or description is prohibited.
(4) 
Signs containing strobe or flashing lights.
(5) 
Signs placed on a motor vehicle or trailer and parked with the primary purpose of providing signs not otherwise allowed by this article.
(6) 
Permanent balloon signs.
(7) 
Abandoned signs.
(8) 
Permanent signs on undeveloped sites, except for subdivision signs.
(9) 
No electric sign or electrically illuminated sign or any signboard, signpost, portion of any advertising nature or otherwise shall be permitted or allowed to remain on the sidewalk or on any portion of the Town streets. No sign or advertising matter of any description shall hereafter be erected or placed on public land within the Town of Tonawanda except with permission from the owner of the public land and the Town Board of the Town of Tonawanda, subject to such conditions as may be imposed by the owner and the Town Board.
(10) 
Signs which advertise an object, product, place, activity, institution, organization or business not available or not located on the premises where the sign is located are prohibited, except billboard signs that are in conformance with § 215-145B(6).
(11) 
Moving, rotating or revolving signs.
(12) 
Signs which resemble, through color, shape or other characteristics, official public traffic control devices.

§ 215-145 Sign regulations.

[Amended 10-5-1998 by L.L. No. 1-1998; 4-22-2002 by L.L. No. 4-2002; 3-26-2007 by L.L. No. 6-2007; 10-1-2007 by L.L. No. 7-2007; 9-13-2010 by L.L. No. 5-2010]
A. 
General requirements. All signs and displays of merchandise must comply with the unobstructed vision clearance requirements of § 215-8 of this chapter of the Code of the Town of Tonawanda.
B. 
Requirements for types of signs.
(1) 
Wall signs. The maximum face area allowed for wall signs is based on the length of building frontage. For wall signs in the C General Business, C-2 Commercial, NB Neighborhood Business, TND Traditional Neighborhood Design, W-MU Waterfront Mixed Use, WB Waterfront Business, or RHC Retail-Highway Commercial Use Districts, maximum face area shall be 3.0 square feet for each linear foot of building frontage. The maximum face area of wall signs in the P-S Performance Standards Use, G-I General Industrial, and W-I Waterfront Industrial Districts for each foot of building frontage shall be four square feet. Wall signs shall not project more than 12 inches from the walls on which they are mounted, shall not extend beyond the ends of the wall surface, shall not extend more than three feet above the top of the wall and shall have a clearance of no less than five feet from the ground to the lowest member of the sign.
[Amended 2-23-2015 by L.L. No. 1-2015]
(2) 
Projecting signs. In no case shall any sign project beyond a line drawn parallel to the lot line two feet inside said lot line. No projecting sign shall have a clearance of less than 10 feet from the ground to the lowest member of the sign. The maximum face area of a projecting sign shall be one square foot for each linear foot of building frontage. Only one projecting sign shall be permitted for each business establishment.
(3) 
Roof signs. Signs that are supported on the top of a building or structure shall be constructed and supported by incombustible materials and shall not extend more than 15 feet above the portion of the roof on which the sign is erected. Said sign shall not interfere with access to any and all parts of the roof or fire escape.
(4) 
Pole signs. The total face area of any pole sign on a single lot shall not exceed 120 square feet. The maximum number of pole signs permitted on a lot shall be as follows:
(a) 
For a lot with less than 30 feet of street frontage, no pole signs are permitted.
(b) 
For a lot with between 30 feet and 60 feet of street frontage, a maximum of one pole sign is permitted.
(c) 
For a lot with between 60 feet and 120 feet of street frontage, a maximum of two pole signs are permitted, each of which may have a face area not to exceed 60 square feet (120 square feet total per sign).
(d) 
For a lot with more than 120 feet of street frontage, a maximum of three pole signs are permitted, each of which may have a face area not to exceed 60 square feet (120 square feet total per sign). In lieu of pole signs, a common directory sign may be installed on a lot with more than 120 feet of street frontage. Such directory sign may have a maximum face area of 240 square feet (480 square feet total).
(e) 
All pole signs shall have a minimum of two feet of separation from any property line, and no pole sign shall be located so as to create a visual obstruction from or within a public right-of-way. A pole sign support may include a double-pole support structure with supports of up to 12 inches in diameter and, should architectural skirting be utilized, supports may be up to 24 inches in diameter. Ground signs and pole signs may not be used in combination on the same premises.
(f) 
No pole sign shall be closer than 50 feet to any other pole sign located on the same premises and shall have a minimum ten-foot clear height from grade to the lowest point of the sign.
(g) 
No pole sign shall exceed 30 feet in overall height.
(h) 
No more than one pole sign per business establishment shall be located along any street, nor shall the total number of pole signs on any premises exceed two for any business establishment.
(i) 
No advertising shall be painted on or affixed below the ten-foot required clearance.
(j) 
All portions of pole signs shall be located not less than two feet from any lot line.
(5) 
Portable signs and private banners. Portable signs and private banners may be permitted in cases where new business enterprises are awaiting erection of permanent signs and desire to use a portable sign for a period not exceeding 60 days or such additional time as the Town Board shall authorize; existing business enterprises have lost the use of an existing sign by reason of fire or other catastrophe and desire to use a portable sign for a period not exceeding 30 days; or the owner of a property desires to use a portable sign for a period of up to 14 days in connection with special activities or events on the premises, as long as no more than four permits per premises per year shall be issued. In no case shall a portable sign exceed eight feet in height or 40 square feet in face area and/or have more than two sides. Portable signs shall be required to be at least 15 feet from the nearest property and right-of-way lines. Private banners may be permitted for up to eight temporary two-week periods each year. Private banners may not have a total face area in excess of 200 square feet nor a height greater than four feet.
(6) 
Billboard signs. No billboard sign shall be allowed within the Town in any zoning district except within the G-I General Industrial District, W-I Waterfront Industrial District or P-S Performance Standards Use District on parcels of land adjoining the Elmer G.H. Youngmann Expressway or the Niagara section of the New York State Thruway. No billboard sign shall exceed 672 square feet in face area plus temporary embellishments not exceeding 20% of the permanent sign area, or have more than two sides. No billboard sign shall be permitted to be located within 1,000 feet of another billboard sign located on the same side of a highway. There shall be a minimum clearance of 10 feet to the bottom of billboard sign face and a maximum height of 45 feet to the top of a billboard sign face, measured from the grade of the thoroughfare adjacent to which the billboard is located. No billboard sign shall be permitted to be erected closer than 50 feet to an adjoining A First Residential District, B Second Residential District or M-F Multifamily Dwelling District. All billboard signs must meet the building setback requirements of this chapter of the Code of the Town of Tonawanda. Billboard signs in conformance with this section are allowed to be message center signs for the entire allowable face area. Billboard signs shall not portray or advertise products containing alcohol, tobacco or an adult entertainment cabaret as defined in Article XV, § 215-97.
(7) 
Ground signs. Ground signs may be permitted not exceeding 40 square feet per face area. All ground signs shall not be more than 10 feet in height as measured from the ground. Any open space between the ground and the bottom of the sign shall not exceed three feet. Ground signs must be located a minimum of 15 feet from any street right-of-way or in any area which shall not affect visibility for motor vehicle traffic. All ground signs must be sufficiently secured to prevent movement from wind. Ground signs and pole signs may not be used in combination on the same premises. No ground signs shall be located closer than 50 feet to any other sign located on the same premises.
(8) 
Directional signs. Directional signs indicating "entrance" and "exit" will be permitted to be located near a street or lot line, provided that they do not have more than two sides which do not exceed eight square feet per face area, do not exceed six feet to the top of the sign and in no way interfere with vision clearances of vehicles entering or exiting the premises. Such signs shall not have more than two supports less than three inches in diameter.
(9) 
Signs at gasoline or fuel stations. Where gasoline or diesel fuel pumps are located on a premises used for a fuel station, signs and displays limited to gasoline and oil-related items of merchandise may be located on a pump island, as long as the signs or displays are at least 10 feet from the nearest street or lot line and at least 25 feet from the nearest street intersection. There shall be a limitation to two signs and two displays of merchandise for every 50 feet of property line along a street line. The total number of signs shall not exceed four, and the total number of displays of merchandise shall not exceed four. No sign shall exceed six square feet in face area. The signage and display of merchandise shall involve only gasoline and automobile-maintenance-related items normally sold or dispensed on the premises.
(10) 
Awning, canopy or marquee signs. Awning, canopy or marquee signs are limited to coverage of 50% of the surface area of the face of the awning, canopy or marquee which they occupy. Only one such sign is allowed per awning, canopy or marquee structure.
(11) 
Illuminated signs. A sign illuminated by electricity or equipped in any way with electric devices or appliances shall be inspected by and conform to the regulations of the National Electric Code. Any illuminated sign or lighting device, other than a billboard sign in conformance with § 215-145B(6) and (16), shall employ only lights emitting a light of constant intensity, and no sign other than that part used to report time and/or temperature, stock market and/or news reports shall be illuminated by or contain a flashing, intermittent, rotating or moving light or lights. In no event shall any illuminated sign or lighting device be placed so as to permit the beams and illumination therefrom to be directed upon a public street, highway, sidewalk or adjacent premises so as to cause glare or reflection that may constitute a traffic hazard or nuisance. The full number of illuminating elements of a sign shall be kept in working condition or immediately repaired or replaced. Overhead wires or exposed wires on a sign or its supporting members are prohibited.
(12) 
Nonprofit and institutional signs. Notwithstanding any inconsistent provisions of this article, signs for nonprofit or not-for-profit organizations in districts zoned residential and C-1 Restricted Business may be constructed, altered, rebuilt, maintained or used only as permitted by this section.
(a) 
A single wall sign used for directory or identification purposes shall be permitted to be constructed on a building. Such signs must face the street on which the building fronts. Signs attached to the building shall not project above the eave line or parapet wall of such building, whichever is the higher, but may occupy the gable (the vertical triangular end of a building from the eaves to the ridge of the roof) end of the building. Such sign shall not exceed 16 square feet in face area for a one-story building, and for each additional story an additional eight square feet in face area is permitted.
(b) 
No more than two ground signs are permitted on premises occupied by such nonprofit or not-for-profit organizations and may not be constructed closer than 15 feet to any lot line. Such sign(s) shall not exceed eight feet in height and may not have a width in excess of eight feet. Such ground sign(s) shall not have more than two sides. Such ground sign(s) shall not have a total face area in excess of 64 square feet, inclusive of its two sides.
(c) 
All signs permitted by this subsection shall be subject to the following restrictions and requirements:
[1] 
The use of reflective beads, paper, paint, wood, metal or materials of any kind or description is prohibited.
[2] 
None of the figures, letters or characters on said signs nor any part thereof shall be of neon lighting or of a neon type of character or lighting.
[3] 
Ground signs may only be illuminated between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.
(d) 
All violations of this article with reference to signs located in residential districts and C-1 Restricted Business Districts created by reason of the erection of such signs by nonprofit and not-for-profit organizations prior to the effective date of this subsection shall be deemed cured and are hereby waived, provided that said signs comply with the provisions of this subsection. No action or proceeding shall hereafter be commenced to enforce a penalty for or to remove any of the aforesaid violations.
(13) 
Temporary signs and private banner signs. Temporary "for sale" or "to let" signs relating to the premises and containing the name, address and telephone number of the owner or authorized agent, or both, and not exceeding six square feet in area in the aggregate shall be permitted. One such sign shall be permitted for each street frontage and may not be illuminated. Temporary signs must be removed within 48 hours after the intent of business of the sign is complete. Existing temporary signs are to be removed or brought into compliance within 120 days of the effective date hereof.
(14) 
Banners within rights-of-way. Signs other than official street or traffic signs shall not be erected within the right-of-way lines of any street, except that temporary banners may be permitted for festivals or special events with the requirement that special permits for such banners be issued by the Town Board of the Town of Tonawanda.
(15) 
Message center signs that are not part of billboard signs.
[Amended 2-23-2015 by L.L. No. 1-2015]
(a) 
Message center signs may be included as part of any permitted freestanding sign in the C General Business, C-2 Commercial, G-I General Industrial, NB Neighborhood Business, P-S Performance Standards Use, RHC Retail - Highway Commercial Use, TND Traditional Neighborhood Design, WB Waterfront Business and WID Waterfront Industrial Zoning Districts.
(b) 
Any message center signage shall be limited to a maximum of 50% of the allowable freestanding sign face area or 40 square feet, whichever is less.
(c) 
Frequency of displays shall be limited to a maximum of one display per minute.
(d) 
Displays shall be presented in static format only. The use of moving pictures and digital movies is prohibited.
(e) 
Copy changes shall be instantaneous, without scrolling, fading in, dropping in or similar moving copy changes.
(f) 
Such signage shall be prohibited in the residential districts.
(16) 
Message center signs as part of billboard signs.
(a) 
Message center signs as part of billboards must be in conformance with § 215-145B(6).
(b) 
Frequency of displays shall be limited to a maximum of one display per six seconds.
(c) 
Displays shall be presented in static format only. The use of moving pictures and digital movies is prohibited.
(d) 
Copy changes shall be instantaneous, without scrolling, fading in, dropping in, or similar moving copy changes.
(e) 
Billboards containing message center signage must also conform to the New York State Department of Transportation and/or Thruway Authority criteria for regulating off-premises commercial electronic variable message signs for spacing and brightness.
C. 
Sign restrictions by zoning district.
(1) 
Signs in residential districts. Within the A First Residential District, B Second Residential District, M-F Multifamily Dwelling District, the following signs are allowed:
(a) 
One nonilluminated ground sign not to exceed two square feet of face area, limited to two sides, identifying a resident by name and/or address only.
(b) 
One unlighted wall sign not to exceed two square feet in face area identifying a resident professional by name and profession.
(c) 
One nonilluminated wall directory sign not to exceed one square foot in face area.
(d) 
One "no trespassing" sign not to exceed one square foot per face area, limited to two sides.
(2) 
Signs in C-1 Restricted Business Districts. Within C-1 Restricted Business Districts, the following signs only are allowed:
(a) 
A maximum of one nonilluminated ground sign not to exceed 16 square feet of face area.
(b) 
Only a wall sign used for directory or identification purposes shall be allowed to be located on a building. Such signs must face the street on which the building fronts. Signs attached to the building shall not project above the eave line or parapet wall of such building, whichever is higher, but may occupy the gable (the vertical triangle end of a building from the eaves to the ridge of the roof) end of the building. Such sign shall not exceed 16 square feet in face area for a one-story building, and for each story thereafter, an additional eight square feet shall be allowed.
(3) 
Signs in C General Business, C-2 Commercial, NB Neighborhood Business and TND Traditional Neighborhood Design Districts. Within C General Business, C-2 Commercial, NB Neighborhood Business and TND Traditional Neighborhood Design Districts, the following signs are allowed:
[Amended 2-23-2015 by L.L. No. 1-2015]
(a) 
A maximum of two ground signs not to exceed 40 square feet of face area per sign.
(b) 
Wall signs (including canopy signage) not to exceed 3.0 square feet per linear foot of building frontage and not to exceed 300 square feet in total face area.
(c) 
One projecting roof sign not to exceed one square foot in face area per linear foot of building frontage.
(d) 
Pole signs as permitted in § 215-145B above.
(e) 
Message center signs as permitted in § 215-145B(15).
(4) 
Signs in the P-S Performance Standards Use and G-I General Industrial Districts. Within the P-S Performance Standards Use and G-I General Industrial Districts, all signs shall conform to the following requirements:
(a) 
The combined total face area for wall, projecting and roof signs shall not exceed five square feet per foot of building frontage.
(b) 
In the Performance Standards Use District, a message center sign as permitted in § 215-145B(15) and (16).
(c) 
Message center signs as permitted in § 215-145B(15).
[Added 2-23-2015 by L.L. No. 1-2015]
(5) 
Signs in the W-MU Waterfront Mixed Use District. Within the W-MU Waterfront Mixed Use District all signs must also comply with Article IXA, § 215-70.5F.

§ 215-146 Construction standards.

A. 
All signs shall be designed according to generally accepted engineering practices to withstand wind pressure at any point on the sign and from any direction as follows:
Height From Ground to Top of Sign
(feet)
Wind Pressure
(pounds per square foot)
Under 25
25
25 to 75
35
76 to 90
45
Over 90
50
B. 
The loads shall be distributed to the structural members of the sign in such a way that these members will not be over-stressed.
C. 
As a condition to the continuance or issuance of a permit pursuant to this article, the Code Enforcement Officer may require the owner or applicant to furnish engineering data from an engineer licensed by the State of New York evidencing compliance with this article.
[Amended 3-26-2007 by L.L. No. 2-2007]
D. 
All ground signs must be sufficiently secured to prevent movement from wind.
E. 
All signs must be maintained in a good condition and in a good state of repair.
F. 
Signs no longer in use must be removed from the premises.
G. 
All signs in excess of 40 square feet of face area must be constructed of incombustible material, except that moldings and cappings may be of wood or other combustible material.

§ 215-147 Fees.

A. 
Fees. Each application shall be accompanied by a fee as established by resolution of the Town Board of the Town of Tonawanda and subsequently posted on the Town Clerk's bulletin board in the Municipal Building and the Building Department offices.
B. 
Fee exemption. The above-mentioned fee provisions shall not be applicable to a fee for a permit to be issued in the name of a charitable or religious organization, a nonprofit organization, a benevolent society, a public or private school, an organized Fire Department, a United States veterans' organization, including auxiliaries, or any not-for-profit organization or any renewal thereof by such entity. Notwithstanding the foregoing, all other terms and provisions hereof shall be applicable thereto.

§ 215-148 Administration and enforcement.

A. 
Nonconforming signs. In the event that a sign has been damaged and presents an immediate threat to the public, the Code Enforcement Officer shall notify the owner or lessee of the property on which the sign is located, or the permittee, to remove the sign or place it in a safe condition. If such owner, lessee or permittee shall refuse or neglect to remove or place the sign in a safe condition within three days after the giving of such notice to the owner, lessee or permittee, the Town may cause the sign to be removed or made safe, and the expense thereof shall be assessed against the premises on which the sign was located. In the case of an emergency, the Code Enforcement Officer may cause immediate removal of such sign after giving such notice as is practical under the circumstances.
[Amended 3-26-2007 by L.L. No. 2-2007]

§ 215-149 Variances.

A. 
Notwithstanding any other provision of this article, upon application to the Zoning Board of Appeals, that Board may vary or adopt the strict application of any of the requirements of this article.