[HISTORY: Adopted by the Annual Town Meeting of the Town of Dennis 5-8-2007 by Art. 41. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Editor's Note: This enactment superseded former Ch. 151, Signs, adopted 12-1-1987 STM, as amended.
This bylaw is adopted for the regulation of signs within the Town of Dennis and is intended to serve the economic interests of the Town as well as the interests of the general public by preserving and enhancing the natural setting and architectural expression which characterize the community and to ensure public safety relative to the use and employment of any sign defined herein. Nothing in this section is intended to override more restrictive regulations that may be in place for the Old King's Highway Historic District or the South Dennis Historic District.
This bylaw shall be known as the "Dennis Sign Code."
No person shall erect or display a new sign for which a sign permit is required under § 151-13 or move, replace, substantially alter or substantially repair an existing sign for which a sign permit is required under § 151-13 without first having obtained such sign permit from the Building Commissioner.
No person shall duplicate or replace a missing sign for which a sign permit is required under § 151-13, without first having obtained a new sign permit. Such sign permit shall be granted at no cost to the applicant upon proof of the legal existence of said missing sign.
Applications for a sign permit shall be submitted to the Building Commissioner and be accompanied by scaled drawing(s) and specifications. The drawing(s) shall include a rendering and shall show the location of the sign on the premises and the specifications shall include sufficient information to demonstrate compliance with the provisions of this bylaw. A record of such applications, drawings and specifications shall be kept on file in the office of the Building Commissioner. No sign permit shall be issued unless the application, drawings and specifications are in all respects in conformance with this bylaw.
A valid sign permit shall be transferable as long as the sign exists and remains unchanged.
All signs requiring a sign permit shall be maintained in accordance with the regulations set forth in the Massachusetts State Building Code.
A sign permit granted under this bylaw shall lapse if the permit is not exercised and erected within one year of its date of issue.
The fee for sign permits, inspections and certificates shall be established by the Select Board. Pre-1991 signs are allowed but will require a permit. Sign permits for pre-1991 signs shall be issued by the Building Commissioner at no cost to the applicant upon satisfactory proof of the legal existence of said sign.
[Amended 10-3-2020 STM by Art. 12]
The Building Commissioner will determine within 30 days from the date of filing a complete application for a sign permit whether to grant or deny the sign permit request. In the case of denials, the Building Commissioner shall provide, in writing, the basis for said denial. Failure of the Building Commissioner to act shall be deemed a denial.
Maintaining and removing preexisting nonconforming signs. Preexisting nonconforming signs may be maintained. Preexisting nonconforming signs which are altered, relocated or replaced shall comply immediately with all provisions of this bylaw; provided, however, that if a preexisting nonconforming sign is involuntarily destroyed by any cause then the sign must be replaced, in-kind, within 18 months or the sign shall be subject to all applicable regulations of this bylaw.
Records of preexisting nonconforming signs. The Building Commissioner shall maintain files of preexisting nonconforming signs, as follows:
Documentation of preexisting nonconforming signs.
Permitted documentation. The documentation referenced in Subsection D shall include photographs, plans, drawings, news clippings, correspondence, affidavits, sworn statements or other materials sufficient to establish, to the satisfaction of the Building Commissioner, that such sign existed prior to January 1, 1991, or that a sign permit was issued for such sign.
Responsibilities of sign owners; compliance date. Any person or entity owning or controlling any preexisting nonconforming sign shall be responsible for providing such documentation to the Building Commissioner. All preexisting nonconforming signs must be in compliance with Subsections C and D no later than December 31, 2010. Thereafter, any preexisting nonconforming sign which does not comply with Subsections C and D shall be prohibited and must be removed.
No lighting or illumination shall be permitted to be used in any way in connection with an illuminated sign unless it is effectively shielded so as to illuminate the sign surface only and to prevent beams or rays of light from being directed at any portion of the traveled way of the public roadway or onto any residential property, or is of such low intensity or brilliance as not to cause glare or to impair the vision of the driver of any motor vehicle, or to otherwise interfere with any driver's operation of a motor vehicle.
Underground electrical service. All illuminated freestanding ground signs shall have underground electrical service unless the local electric utility will not permit such underground service.
Any illuminated sign which is located less than 100 feet from any residential property either must be turned off between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. or be illuminated by halo lighting.
This bylaw shall be administered and enforced by the Building Commissioner.
The Building Commissioner is authorized to inspect all signs covered under this bylaw and may, for this purpose, enter upon the premises where such signs are located at all reasonable times.
Violations and penalties.
Any person, corporation or entity found in violation of any provisions of this bylaw shall be punished by a fine in accordance with the following schedule of fines, and each day that the violation continues shall constitute a separate offense:
Notice of violation and procedures pertaining thereto shall be in accordance with MGL c. 40, § 21D (Noncriminal disposition).
The Board of Appeals established under this bylaw shall be the Sign Code Board of Appeals.
The Board shall be empowered to hear and decide appeals and petitions for relief pursuant to and concerning interpretations of this bylaw.
Any person or entity aggrieved by a decision, action or failure to act by the Building Commissioner may appeal such decision, action or failure to act and/or may petition the Board for relief as established below. Any such appeal or petition shall be filed within 30 days of the actual notice of the decision, action or failure to act.
The Board must hold a public hearing within 65 days after the appeal or petition is transmitted to the Board by the Town Clerk. An appeal or a petition for relief must be acted upon within 75 days after the appeal or petition is filed with the Town Clerk. Failure of the Board to act within 75 days will result in a constructive grant of the appeal or petition, subject to judicial appeal.
A notice of a public hearing on an appeal or petition for relief shall be given by publication in a newspaper of general circulation not less than two weeks prior to the hearing date and by posting in a conspicuous place in the Town Hall no less than two weeks prior to the date of such hearing. The notice shall contain the name of the appellant or petitioner, street address or adequate identification of the location, the date and time of the hearing and the nature of the appeal or relief requested.
The fee for filing appeals and petitions shall be established by the Board.
The grant of an appeal or a petition for relief from a decision, action or failure to act by the Building Commissioner shall require the concurring vote of four members of the Board.
Petitions for relief from the requirements of this bylaw may be granted only upon a finding by the Board that 1) owing to unusual and distinctive physical conditions of a site or structures thereon or due to other encumbrances or restrictions, a literal enforcement of the provisions of this bylaw will impose a substantial hardship on the petitioner; 2) that the proposed sign will not create a nuisance, hazard or congestion to vehicular or pedestrian traffic; and 3) that the proposed sign's size, location, design, color, texture, lighting and materials will not be detrimental to or derogate from the architectural and natural setting.
Appeals from a decision, action or failure to act by the Building Commissioner may be granted only upon a finding by the Board that said decision, action or failure to act was unlawful, improper or erroneous or constituted an abuse of discretion.
When granting appeals or petitions for relief, the Board may impose reasonable conditions, safeguards and limitations, both on time and use, including a condition that relief shall expire upon a change of use, at which time compliance or new relief would be required. However, a condition based upon a change of ownership of the business for which the sign is used by the appellant or petitioner may not be imposed.
If the rights authorized by the granted appeal or petition for relief are not exercised within one year of the grant thereof, such rights shall lapse. An extension of up to six months may be granted, for good cause, at the discretion of the Building Commissioner upon application filed with the Building Commissioner prior to the expiration date. Once a granted appeal or petition for relief has lapsed, it may be reestablished only after reapplication and the granting of a new appeal or petition for relief.
No granted appeal or petition for relief nor any extension, modification or renewal thereof shall take effect until the decision bears a certification by the Town Clerk that 30 days have elapsed after the decision was filed with the Town Clerk and that no appeal has been filed or, if an appeal was filed, that it has been dismissed or denied.
Any person aggrieved by a decision of the Board under this bylaw may appeal to the applicable court.
All persons charged with the enforcement of this bylaw shall not be personally liable while acting for the Town, and they are hereby relieved from all personal liability for any damage that may accrue to persons or property as a result of any act required or permitted in the discharge of their official duties.
This bylaw may be amended from time to time by a majority vote at any Town Meeting.
The invalidation of any section or provision of this bylaw shall not invalidate any other section or provision thereof.
When the application of this bylaw imposes greater restrictions than those imposed by any other bylaws, regulations, permits, restrictions, easements, covenants or agreements, the provisions of this code shall control in all cases concerning the regulation of signs and other advertising devices.
- ABANDONED SIGN
- A sign which identifies or provides information pertaining to a business, lessor, lessee, service, owner, product or activity, which no longer exists at the premises where the sign is located, or for which no legal owner can be found.
- ACCESSORY SIGN
- A sign which provides information pertaining to, but does not specifically identify, a business, product or activity, such as, "open," "closed," "VISA," phone number, website, email etc.
- Advertising placed on the riser or treads of stairs.
- ADVERTISING DEVICE
- Any principally nonverbal device designed for advertising purposes, such as balloon signs, caricatures, animals, ice cream cones, arches, etc.
- Advertising placed on or within a sidewalk.
- A-FRAME SIGN
- A sandwich sign which is connected at the top or bottom.
- ANIMATED SIGN
- Any sign which uses actual movement or the illusion of movement.
- A series of arches supported by columns or piers, which may be attached to a wall or freestanding.
- AREA OF A SIGN
- An area determined by the smallest rectangle enclosing the extreme limits of a sign, including any form or border but excluding supports which do not bear advertising. Where a sign consists of individual letters, symbols or multiple panels (i.e., a multiple-faced sign), the area shall be considered to be the smallest rectangle which encompasses all the letters, symbols or panels. Only one face of a double-faced sign shall be used in computing the area of that sign.
- A roof-like cover, often of fabric, plastic, metal or glass, designed and intended for protection from the weather or as a decorative embellishment, and which projects from a wall or roof of a structure.
- AWNING SIGN
- A sign attached to or printed upon textile or fabric material supported by framing and which is attached to a building.
- BALLOON SIGN
- A type of advertising device consisting of a bag made of lightweight material supported by helium, hot air, pressurized air or other gaseous substance having a greatest dimension in excess of 24 inches or containing more than four cubic feet of air.
- BANNER or FLAG
- Any fabric or similar flexible material containing distinctive colors or patterns attached at least one end of the material, usually to a staff or pole, which contains distinctive colors, patterns, symbols, emblems, insignia or other symbolic devices.
- A stationary revolving light that flashes or projects illumination, single-color or multicolored, in any manner that is intended to attract or divert attention; not including any type of lighting device required or necessary under the safety regulations described by the Federal Aviation Administration or similar agencies.
- A sign which directs attention to a business, product, service, or entertainment conducted, sold or offered at a location other than the premises on which the sign is located.
- BILLBOARD, PORTABLE
- A sign designed to be readily relocated, which directs attention to a business, product, service, or entertainment conducted, sold or offered either on or off the premises on which the sign is located. Portable billboard signs also include signs on wheels or on portable structures such as trailers, tent signs, and normal advertising placed on motor vehicles designed specifically to be used as mobile billboards. Portable billboard signs do not include A-frame signs, sandwich signs, menu signs, and V-shaped signs but may include changeable-copy signs if they are not permanently attached to a structure.
- The Dennis Zoning Board of Appeals sitting as the Sign Code Board of Apeals.
- BUILDING COMMISSIONER
- The Building Commissioner of the Town of Dennis or his designee.
- BUILDING FRONT
- The portion of a building facing the road or any portion of a building which has separate businesses and separate egress and ingress for the public facing a parking lot or another public way.
- A roof-like cover, often of fabric, plastic, metal, or glass on a support, which provides shelter over a doorway.
- CANOPY OR ARCADE SIGN
- A wall-mounted painted or electronic sign attached to or constructed on the face of a permanent roofed structure covering an area customarily used for pedestrian circulation.
- CHANGEABLE-COPY SIGN
- A sign on which the characters, letters or illustrations can be changed or rearranged without altering the face or the surface of the sign. Changeable-copy signs shall exclude time and temperature signs. See also "electronic message center."
- CONSTRUCTION SIGN
- A sign identifying an architect, builder, contractor, subcontractor, material supplier, financing entity or others participating in construction, design or alteration on the property on which the sign is located. Said signs may also include a picture of the building under construction.
- DIRECT/EXTERNAL LIGHTING
- Illumination by means of a light source that is external to the sign being lit.
- DIRECTIONAL OR TRAFFIC SAFETY SIGN
- A sign identifying entrances, exits, parking areas or other operational features of premises and/or providing directions for the safe and/or efficient flow of vehicular or pedestrian traffic. (Directional or traffic safety signs within public roadway layouts are governed by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and Highways Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.)
- DISCONTINUED SIGN
- See "abandoned sign."
- DOUBLE-FACED SIGN
- A sign with two faces or panels, neither of which is visible at the same time and which, unlike a V-shaped sign, are directly back to back.
- DRIVE-THROUGH MENU SIGN
- A sign associated with drive-through windows or kiosks and directed to drive-through traffic.
- ELECTRONIC MESSAGE CENTER
- A sign on which the characters, letters or illustrations can be changed automatically or through electronic or mechanical means. Electronic message centers exclude time and temperature signs. See also "changeable-copy signs."
- EXPOSED NEON SIGN
- An illuminated sign containing a glass tube filled with neon, phosphors or other gaseous substance which is bent to form letters, symbols or other shapes. Exposed neon signs shall include tubes which are visible either through exposed lighting on the sign face or through transparent or translucent material from a light source within the sign. This includes said signs whether or not they are enclosed in a box or other framing material.
- The area of the entire building front wall, including the parapet but not the roof.
- FLASHING SIGN
- A sign which contains an intermittent or sequential flashing light source, but excluding changeable-copy signs, electronic message centers, animated signs or signs which, through reflection or other means, create an illusion of flashing or intermittent light.
- FREESTANDING GROUND SIGN
- A freestanding sign which is supported by one or more uprights or braces that are in or upon the ground.
- GASOLINE STATION AND GARAGES - BAY ENTRANCE SIGNS
- Signs over the entryway to service bays at a gasoline station or garage.
- GASOLINE STATIONS AND GARAGES - FREESTANDING GROUND SIGNS
- See "freestanding ground sign."
- GASOLINE STATIONS AND GARAGES - FUEL PRICE SIGNS ON FREESTANDING GROUND SIGNS
- Signs located on a freestanding ground sign identifying the prices per gallon for the fuels sold on site.
- GASOLINE STATIONS AND GARAGES - FUEL PRICE SIGNS ON GASOLINE PUMPS
- Signs located on top of gasoline pumps identifying the price per gallon for the fuel sold.
- GASOLINE STATIONS AND GARAGES - FUEL PUMP ACCESSORY SIGNS
- Signs attached to gasoline pumps identifying acceptable payment methods or other important information related to the use of the pumps and sale of fuel.
- GASOLINE STATIONS AND GARAGES - ISLAND ADVERTISING SIGNS
- Advertising signs located on gasoline islands or above pumps.
- GASOLINE STATIONS AND GARAGES - ISLAND NONADVERTISING SIGNS
- Signs identifying self service, full service islands, etc. located on gasoline islands or above pumps.
- GASOLINE STATIONS AND GARAGES - WALL SIGNS
- See "wall signs."
- GOVERNMENT SIGN
- Any sign erected and maintained by a duly constituted government agency.
- HALO LIGHTING
- Light showing from the back of or from within a letter or graphic shape out towards the surface that the letter or graphic is mounted on without having any light visible through the face of the letter or graphic.
- HEIGHT OF A SIGN
- The vertical distance including landscape features and mounding measured from the highest point of a sign to the mean ground grade beneath the sign.
- HISTORIC OR COMMEMORATIVE MARKER
- Any sign or plaque indicating the name of a building, the date of erection and/or incidental information about its construction, also known as memorial signs or markers.
- HOME OCCUPATION SIGN
- An on-premises sign indicating a business, trade, occupation or profession conducted at the proprietor's residence or within a structure accessory to the residence.
- ILLEGAL SIGN
- A sign which does not meet the requirements of this code and which has not received legal nonconforming status.
- ILLUMINATED SIGN
- A sign lighted or exposed to artificial light either by lights on or in the sign or directed towards the sign including halo lighting, direct/external lighting, indirect lighting, internal illumination, flashing or intermittent lighting.
- INDIRECT LIGHTING
- Illumination by means of a concealed light source, whereby all devices are shielded from view by opaque or translucent materials, and including reflected lighting.
- INTERNAL ILLUMINATION
- Illumination by means of a light source completely enclosed by the sign panel(s).
- INTERMITTENT LIGHTING
- See "flashing sign."
- LADDER SIGN
- A freestanding ground sign with two vertical supports and two or more crosspieces serving as individual signs.
- LIGHTNING POSTERTM or LIGHTING POSTER
- A sign with flashing visual elements utilizing lighting or other fiber optics.
- A distinctive emblem, symbol or insignia identifying a particular product, service, business, activity or entity.
- MAINTAINING (A SIGN)
- The cleaning, painting, or repair or replacement of defective parts of a sign in a manner that does not alter the basic information, design or structure of the sign.
- MAINTENANCE SIGN
- A sign identifying an architect, builder, contractor, subcontractor, material supplier or others participating in maintenance on the property on which the sign is located.
- Any permanent roof-like structure projecting beyond a building or extending along and projecting beyond the wall of a building.
- MARQUEE SIGN
- A sign painted on, attached to, or consisting of interchangeable letters on the face of a marquee.
- MENU SIGN
- A sign illustrating the menu or specials for an establishment.
- MULTIPLE-FACED SIGNS
- Signs containing more than two faces or panels.
- OFF-PREMISES SIGN
- A sign which identifies or provides information pertaining to a business, lessor, lessee, service, owner, product or activity which is not located on the premises where such sign is located.
- ON-PREMISES SIGN
- A sign which identifies or provides information pertaining to a business, lessor, lessee, service, owner, product or activity which is located on the premises where such sign is located.
- OPEN HOUSE SIGN
- A sign promoting an "open house."
- PAINTED WALL SIGN
- A wall sign which is applied with paint or similar substance on the face of a wall; such sign shall be considered a wall sign for calculation purposes.
- PERMANENT SIGN
- All signs other than temporary signs.
- POLITICAL SIGNS
- Signs which pertain to the elective process or which constitute political speech.
- PORTABLE SIGN
- Any sign designed to be moved easily and not affixed to the ground or to a structure or building.
- PREEXISTING NONCONFORMING SIGN
- Any sign which conformed to the provisions of the Sign Code Bylaw, if any, at the time it was erected, but does not conform to the current requirements of this bylaw.
- PROJECTING SIGN
- A sign which extends from the wall of a building.
- PUBLIC SERVICE INFORMATION SIGN
- A sign which exclusively promotes an activity or event of general interest to the community and which contains no advertising features.
- REAL ESTATE SIGN
- Any sign which is used for the sale, lease or rental of real property.
- REGULATORY OR SAFETY SIGN
- A sign which provides directions or regulations for the safe and legal conduct of activities on the premises.
- RESIDENTIAL DECORATIVE SIGN
- A sign indicating a name for a residence at the premises and not advertising any products or services.
- RESIDENTIAL IDENTIFICATION SIGN
- A sign identifying a subdivision, condominium, apartment complex or other residential development.
- ROOF SIGN
- A sign attached to the roof of a building.
- SANDWICH SIGN
- A self-supporting, double-paneled sign, whose panels are not parallel but which are connected along one edge and separated along the opposite edge. If connected on a side edge, it is a V-shaped sign. If connected at the top or bottom, it is an A-frame sign.
- The regular cyclic seasons of the year whether winter, spring, summer or fall; or special "holiday seasons" such as Christmas, Easter, etc. Unless otherwise specified, "seasonal" shall refer to the normal summer tourist season — generally the time period between Easter and Columbus Day.
- SEASONAL DISPLAYS
- An outdoor display for the purpose of celebration of holidays, or seasons.
- SEASONAL SIGN
- A temporary sign used by a business that operates on a seasonal basis.
- Any permanent or temporary board or other device, lettered or not, bearing an advertisement, announcement or directional information.
- SIGN FACE
- The single face of any sign.
- SIGN PERMIT
- A permit issued by the Building Commissioner for the erection, construction, display, removal, enlargement, alteration, repair or improvement of any sign.
- SPECIAL PURPOSE SIGN
- A sign giving warning, prohibition or instruction, such as "no hunting," "no turning," "no trespassing" or "beware of dog."
- SUBDIVISION LOT PLAN SIGN
- A sign depicting the lot plan of a subdivision.
- SUBSIDIARY SIGN
- A sign which is attached to and smaller than another sign.
- TEMPORARY SIGN
- A sign used for a limited period of time.
- TIME AND TEMPERATURE SIGNS
- A sign or portion thereof which is designed to illustrate the current time and temperature.
- UNDER-CANOPY SIGN
- A sign suspended beneath a canopy, ceiling, roof or marquee.
- VEHICLE SIGN
- Signs on or affixed to a bus, car, boat, trailer or other motorized vehicle.
- V-SHAPED SIGN
- A sandwich sign which is connected at a side edge, with two panels, neither of which is visible at the same time, and which, unlike a double-faced sign, are not flush or parallel.
- VENDING MACHINE SIGN
- A sign identifying a vending machine which dispenses goods and/or services.
- WALL SIGN
- A sign attached parallel to or painted on the wall of a building.
- WINDOW OR DOOR SIGN
- Any sign placed on, inside or enclosed within a window or door facing the outside and which is visible from the exterior.
- YARD, BARN OR GARAGE SALE SIGN
- A sign advertising a yard, barn or garage sale.
[Editor's Note: The table illustrating allowed signs and conditions of use is included at the end of this chapter.]
The following signs are specifically prohibited in the Town of Dennis:
Banners and flags with logos or other advertising features, or any other banners and flags not specifically identified in § 151-13.
Billboard, portable, whether on wheels or with the wheels removed.
Exposed neon signs.
Gasoline stations and garages — gasoline island advertising signs.
Lightning posters or lighting posters.
Off-premises ladder signs, except that off-premises ladder signs existing as of May 8, 2007 may be maintained and individual business names on such signs may be changed.
Vehicle sign: a sign on an inoperative vehicle or on a vehicle which is not used in the activities of the business and parked on public or private property with the primary purpose of providing advertisement of products or directing people to a business or activity located on the same or nearby premises. This provision is not intended to prohibit signs painted upon or applied directly to a vehicle which is actively used in the regular function of a business, as long as it is parked within a legal parking space on the site.
Any sign or any direction, name or information attached to or painted upon trees, fences, stones, sidewalks, utility poles or curbs, except that historic commemorative markers, house numbers and residential identification signs may be attached to rocks and special purpose signs may be attached to trees.
No sign or any part thereof shall be within the layout of a public way; or shall obstruct highway vision unless otherwise permitted under § 151-13.
Signs with colors which are fluorescent, luminescent or day-glo type.
Any sign emitting sound except drive-through menu signs.