City of Scranton, PA
Lackawanna County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents

§ 445-58 Applicability.

A. 
Purposes. This Article is intended to promote and maintain overall community beautification; establish reasonable time, place and manner regulations on the exercise of free speech, without regulating content; promote traffic safety by avoiding distractions and sight distance obstructions; protect property values and ensure capability with the character of neighboring existing and planned land uses; and assist in carrying out the goals of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Advertising Control Act, as amended.[1]
[1]
Editor's Note: See 36 P.S. § 2718.101 et seq.
B. 
Permit required. A permit under this chapter shall be required for all signs except for signs meeting the requirements of § 445-60 and window signs permitted by this chapter. Only types, sizes and heights of signs that are specifically permitted by this chapter within the applicable district shall be allowed.
C. 
Changes on signs. Any lawfully existing sign (including nonconforming signs) may be painted or repaired or changed in message without a new permit under this chapter, provided that the changes do not increase the sign area or otherwise result in noncompliance or an increased nonconformity with this chapter.

§ 445-59 Existing nonconforming signs.

A. 
Signs lawfully existing at the time of enactment of this chapter which do not conform to the requirements of this chapter shall be considered nonconforming signs. Existing nonconforming signs may be continued to be used and may be repaired, repainted and changed in message.
B. 
Replacement. An existing lawful nonconforming sign may be replaced within one year with a new nonconforming sign, provided that the replacement sign meets all three of the following standards:
(1) 
Is not more nonconforming in any measurement than the previous sign (including but not limited to height and total square feet);
(2) 
Meets the City building code;[1] and
[1]
Editor's Note: See Ch. 187, Building Construction;
(3) 
In the case of an on-premises freestanding sign, does not in any case have a maximum height of greater than 50 feet or a maximum sign area per side of greater than 100 square feet, unless such size of a sign is specifically permitted by this chapter.
C. 
Historic signs. Signs and related canopies and awnings that clearly have a historic character, that the applicant proves to be of a type that previously was attached to the building or on the site and that would not otherwise be permitted by right under this Article of this chapter, may be reerected or recreated and placed on a building or site if both of the following conditions are met:
(1) 
The applicant proves to the written satisfaction of the responsible City building inspectors that the sign or related canopy or awning would not be a threat to the public safety; and
(2) 
The applicant proves to the written satisfaction of the City of Scranton Architecture, Urban Design and Historic Review Commission[2] (or its successor City board or commission) that the sign or related canopy or awning would clearly have a historic character, clearly is of a type that previously was attached to the building or on the site and would overall improve the appearance of the building or lot. If such Commission or its successor no longer exists, then this § 445-54C shall no longer be valid.
[2]
Editor's Note: See Ch. 18, Boards, Commissions and Committees, Art. I, Architecture and Urban Design Commission.

§ 445-60 Miscellaneous signs not requiring permits.

The following signs shall be permitted by right within all zoning districts within the following regulations and shall not be required to have a permit under this Article.[1]
[1]
Editor's Note: The table of permitted signs is included at the end of this chapter.

§ 445-61 Freestanding, wall and window signs.

A. 
The following are the signs permitted on a lot within the specified districts and within the following regulations, in addition to signs not requiring a permit in § 445-60.[1] See definition of the types of signs in § 445-68.
(1) 
A minimum of 10 individual retail establishments.
(2) 
A conference center or theater(s) (other than an adult theater) capable of accommodating a minimum of 200 patrons at one time.
(3) 
The sale of new automobiles manufactured by two or more distinct corporations.
(4) 
The lot includes a minimum of 300 square feet of total frontage on a public street.
[1]
Editor's Note: The table of signs is included at the end of this chapter.
B. 
Maximum height of wall and roof signs. The top part of a wall or wall sign shall not be placed at a maximum height greater than 10 feet above the total height of the building to which it is attached, not including the height of elevator shafts and similar extensions.
C. 
Special sale displays and banners. Banners totaling over 30 square feet in area (other than banners meeting the requirements for a permitted sign), balloons of over 50 cubic feet tethered to the ground, aerial spotlights and outdoor lasers used for commercial purposes are permitted on a lot that includes a principal commercial use, provided that such items are not displayed for more than 21 days in any ninety-day period.
D. 
Signs on mobile stands (portable signs).
(1) 
Purpose. These standards recognize that signs on mobile stands have been inappropriately used as permanent signs, often without permits, without adequate wiring, with violations of setback requirements, with violations of sign area requirements and with obstructions of sight distance. The purpose shall be to recognize that this chapter permits businesses sufficient sign area to erect a permanent changeable message sign.
(2) 
The definition of a "sign on a mobile stand" shall be a freestanding sign that is not permanently attached to the ground or permanently attached to a building and that can be carried on the back of a flatbed truck or towed from one location to another.
(3) 
Signs on a mobile stand are prohibited in all districts, except that a new principal commercial use in the C-G or C-N District may use one sign on a mobile stand with a maximum sign area of 35 square feet for a maximum of 60 days while a permanent permitted freestanding sign is on order.
E. 
Projecting signs. In addition to the signs permitted by this Article, each lot in the C-D and C-N District may include one projecting sign. Such sign shall meet all of the following requirements:
(1) 
Have a maximum sign area of 10 square feet on each of two sides, except such maximum sign area shall be 50 square feet for a marque of a nonadult movie theater.
(2) 
Not extend more than four feet from a building and not more than four feet into a street right-of-way.
(3) 
Not be internally illuminated (relief-finish wood with metal supports are strongly recommended).
(4) 
Meet the construction requirements of the City building code, including being securely attached to the building.

§ 445-62 Abandoned or outdated signs.

Conforming and nonconforming signs advertising a use no longer in existence (other than a sign relating to a building that is clearly temporarily vacant and being offered to new tenants or for purchase) shall be removed within 180 days of the cessation of such use.

§ 445-63 Location of signs.

The following shall regulate the location of signs:
A. 
Public rights-of-way and sign setbacks from streets.
(1) 
No sign except official signs, nameplate signs, public service signs and directional signs shall be erected within or project more than two feet over any existing street right-of-way, except:
(a) 
If an awning or canopy that is authorized by the City to extend over a sidewalk, then a portion or all of the permitted sign area may be located on such awning or canopy (see § 445-74).
(b) 
As may specifically be permitted by another City ordinance.
(c) 
As permitted by § 445-61E for projecting signs.
(d) 
For occasional banners erected across streets when authorized by the City or PennDOT to advertise a public celebration or charitable event.
(e) 
If a setback is required by Subsection A(2) below.
(2) 
A freestanding sign of greater than five square feet in sign area shall be set back a minimum of five feet from the existing right-of-way of a public street, except in the C-N and C-D Districts.
(3) 
Any sign, canopy or awning shall maintain a nine-foot minimum vertical clearance over a sidewalk. See provisions of the City building code regarding construction of signs that intrude over a sidewalk.
B. 
Sight distance. No sign shall be so located or arranged that it interferes with the sight distance requirements of § 445-74 or safe sight distances for vehicles within a lot.
C. 
Off-premises. No signs except permitted off-premises, official, political or public service signs shall be erected on a property to which it does not relate.
D. 
Setbacks. An illuminated freestanding sign for a commercial or industrial business shall not be located within 25 feet of a residential lot line (see definition in Article II). A sign is not required to meet setback requirements for principal or accessory structures.
E. 
Permission of owner. No sign shall be posted on any property or sign pole or public utility pole, unless permission has been received by the owner.
F. 
Utility poles. No sign shall be stapled or nailed to a utility pole, except by an authorized utility.

§ 445-64 Illumination of signs.

A. 
See § 445-46, Light and glare control.
B. 
Times of illumination. It is strongly encouraged that signs within 200 feet of a dwelling not be illuminated between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.
C. 
Permitted signs may include an electrically changing message, except for those signs prohibited by § 445-66 below.

§ 445-65 Vehicles functioning as signs.

Any vehicle or structure to which a sign is affixed in such a manner that the carrying of such sign or signs no longer is incidental to the primary purpose of the vehicle or structure but becomes a primary purpose in itself shall be considered a freestanding sign and as such shall be subject to requirements for freestanding signs in the district in which such vehicle or structure is located.

§ 445-66 Prohibited signs.

The following signs are prohibited in all zoning districts:
A. 
Spinners, pennants or any moving object used to attract attention to a commercial use; flags and banners of more than 20 square feet per lot that contain a commercial message and that do not meet the requirements for a permitted sign.
B. 
Flashing, blinking, twinkling, animated or moving signs of any type, except for time and temperature signs and signs that have a nonflashing electrically changing message. This restriction specifically includes window signs, but does not prohibit Christmas lighting or displays, within § 445-60.
C. 
Signs which emit smoke, visible vapors or particles, sound or odor.
D. 
Signs which contain information that states or implies that a lot may be used for any purpose not permitted under the applicable provisions of this chapter.
E. 
Signs that are of such character, form, shape or color that they imitate or resemble any official traffic sign, signal or device or that have any characteristics which are likely to confuse or distract the operator of a motor vehicle on a public street (such as prominent use of the words "danger" or "stop").
F. 
Signs that use reflective materials to give the appearance of flashing, blinking or twinkling.
G. 
Signs or displays that include words or images that are obscene, pornographic or that an average reasonable person would find highly offensive to public decency.
H. 
Balloons of greater than 25 cubic feet that are tethered to the ground or a structure and are primarily intended for advertising purposes, except as provided as a special sale sign.
I. 
Floodlights and lasers, except as is permitted as a special sale display under § 445-60.

§ 445-67 Construction of signs.

See the City building code.[1] Every permanent sign permitted in this chapter shall be constructed of durable materials and shall be kept in good condition and repair. Any sign which becomes dilapidated or unsafe may be repaired or removed by the City at the expense of the owner or lessee of the property on which it is located, after providing written notice to such owner or lessee.
[1]
Editor's Note: See Ch. 187, Building Construction.

§ 445-68 Measurement; major types of signs.

A. 
Sign definitions. The following definitions shall be used in determining whether signs meet the measurement and type requirements of this Article:
BUILDING SIDE OR BUILDING FACE
The vertical area of a particular side of a building, including the vertical area of any roof, but not including nonstructural extensions. This area shall be measured using a straight two-dimensional plane, without considering any indentations in the building or angling of the roof.
FREESTANDING SIGN
A sign which is self-supporting upon the ground or which is primarily supported by poles attached to the ground and not primarily supported by a building.
HEIGHT OF SIGN
The vertical distance measured from the average ground level surrounding a sign to the highest point of the sign and its supporting structure. Religious symbols, when not accompanied by lettering, shall not be restricted by the sign heights of this Article when attached to a tower or spire of a place of worship.
ILLUMINATED SIGN, INTERNALLY
A sign with man-made illumination by light from within the sign and that shines through and illuminates the sign face, as opposed to a sign illuminated by a source in front of or shining from the outside of the sign face.
OFF-PREMISES SIGN
See Article II.
ROOF SIGN
A sign attached to a building and that extends above the top of the roof of the building.
SIGN
See Article II.
WALL SIGN
A sign primarily supported by or painted on a wall of a building and which does not project more than two feet from such wall. See the requirements of the City building code for signs that project over sidewalks.
WINDOW SIGN
A sign which is readily visible and can be at least partially read from an exterior lot line and which is attached to a window or transparent door or that can be read through a window or transparent door and which is not internally illuminated and that is constructed of paper or similar nonpermanent material or is painted on the window. Signs within windows that do not meet this definition shall be regulated as a wall sign.
B. 
Measurement of sign area.
(1) 
Sign area shall include all lettering, wording and accompanying designs and symbols, together with related background areas on which they are displayed. One freestanding sign may include several signs that are all attached to one structure, with the total sign area being the total area of all signs on the structure.
(2) 
The sign area shall not include any structurally supporting framework, bracing or clearly defined wooden framing if such area does not include any display, lettering or sign and if such area is clearly incidental to the sign area itself. Also, cutout areas that are open to the sky as part of a freestanding sign shall not be included in sign area.
(3) 
Where the sign consists of individual letters or symbols attached to or painted directly on a building or window, other than an illuminated background that is a part of the sign, the sign area shall be the smallest rectangle or two smallest rectangles that include all of the letters and symbols.
(4) 
Two-sided signs. In computing the permitted sign area of a sign with two sides, the permitted total sign area shall be based upon the sign area of only one side (the larger of any two if they differ). If the interior angle formed at the inside of a two-sided sign is greater than 60° (other than a permitted off-premises sign), then the total area of both sides shall not be greater than the permitted total sign area. If a sign has more than two sides, then the maximum sign area per side shall apply to all the sides added together divided by two.
(5) 
Unless otherwise specified, all square footages in regards to signs are maximum sizes.

§ 445-69 Off-premises signs; billboards.

A. 
Purposes. Off-premises signs are controlled by this chapter for the following purposes: to ensure that a physical environment is maintained that is attractive to desirable types of development, especially light industrial and office parks; to prevent visual pollution in the City and protect property values, especially in consideration of the fact that most commercial areas of the City are within close proximity to existing residences; to prevent glare on adjacent property and streets; to protect the open space and natural character of areas of the City planned to remain conservation areas; to avoid the creation of additional visual distractions to motorists, especially along the high-speed expressways and along busy arterial streets that involve complex turning movements, congestion and numerous traffic hazards; to recognize the numerous alternative forms of free speech available in the City, including existing nonconforming off-premises signs, on-premises signs and temporary signs and printed and electronic media; to recognize that this chapter allows every landowner a reasonable use for their land; to avoid off-premises signs that would have an unfair advantage over on-premises signs in the competition for attention, because off-premises signs typically are higher and larger than on-premises signs; to carry out the purposes listed in § 445-58.
B. 
Nonconforming off-premises signs. This section is not intended to require the removal of an existing lawfully placed off-premises sign that is in structurally sound condition.
C. 
Commercial and noncommercial. This section applies to both commercial and noncommercial off-premises signs except as may be specifically provided for elsewhere in this chapter.
D. 
PennDOT sign. Signs erected and maintained by PennDOT are permitted by right in all districts. Such signs that identify business services available at an interchange are specifically encouraged as an appropriate and orderly means of providing information without causing visual pollution or traffic hazards.
E. 
Political signs. See § 445-60.
F. 
Permitted off-premises signs. Based directly on the intent statements within this chapter, off-premises signs are only permitted if they meet the following requirements, except for exempt signs under § 445-60.
(1) 
District. An off-premises sign is only permitted in:
(a) 
The I-G, I-L and C-G Districts; and
(b) 
The C-N District if both of the following conditions are met:
[1] 
All portions of such sign are within 150 feet of the existing right-of-way of Interstate 81, the existing right-of-way of the North Scranton Expressway north of its intersection with North Main Avenue or any I-G or I-L District; and
[2] 
The sign does not abut and does not face East or West Market Street, North or South Keyser Avenue or the North Scranton Expressway south of its intersection with North Main Avenue.
(2) 
Location. An off-premises sign is only permitted within a maximum of 250 feet of an existing right-of-way of an arterial street or expressway.
(3) 
Maximum sign area: 672 square feet on each of two attached sign faces if the entire sign would be within 250 feet of an expressway in a permitted district other than the C-N District. In all other permitted locations, a maximum sign area of 300 square feet on each of two attached sign faces shall apply. Where a maximum sign area of 300 square feet is permitted, such sign area may be divided into four attached sign faces (such as four sign faces of 75 square feet each).
(4) 
Spacing. Any off-premises sign shall be separated by a minimum of 400 feet from any other off-premises sign that faces onto the same side of the same street, including existing signs in other municipalities. In the case of signs along an expressway, such separation distance shall only apply for signs along the same side of the expressway.
(5) 
Maximum height. The total height of the sign shall be a maximum of 40 feet above the center line of the primary street that the sign is directed towards. See definition in § 445-68.
(6) 
Off-premises signs shall have a maximum of two sign faces attached to each other, except as stated in Subsection F(3) above.
(7) 
Lighting and glare. See standards in § 445-46.
(8) 
Setbacks. In place of the setback requirements of Article III, an off-premises sign meet the following minimum setback requirements:
(a) 
Two hundred fifty feet from a residential lot line (as defined by Article II), except 200 feet if the illumination of the sign would not be visible from the residential lot line;
(b) 
Fifty feet from an existing hospital building or nursing home building; or
(c) 
Ten feet from the existing right-of-way of a public street or any other lot line.

§ 445-70 Sign area bonuses.

A. 
Intent. The intent shall be to encourage designs of signs that will be highly compatible with nearby residences and other attractive natural features and areas.
B. 
Applicability. These bonuses may apply to on-premises signs in a commercial, industrial or institutional district.
C. 
Wood. The wall or freestanding maximum sign area(s) permitted by this Article may be increased by 20% if:
(1) 
All such wall or freestanding signs are constructed completely of natural relief-finish wood (other than required fasteners); and
(2) 
All freestanding signs on the lot have a maximum height of 10 feet.

§ 445-71 Signs identifying major residential or business developments.

The following signs are permitted by right in all districts, provided that they meet the following requirements.
A. 
When allowed. Signs and any supporting structure (as described in this section) are allowed for developments that have been approved to involve either:
(1) 
A total of 10 or more residential lots; or
(2) 
A total of five or more separate office, commercial, industrial and/or institutional establishments on a minimum total of three acres of land.
B. 
Size and number. Signs described in this section may have a maximum sign area of 40 square feet and a maximum height of 10 feet, except a maximum height of 15 feet may apply in a commercial district. These signs and/or structures may be located one each a maximum of three of the major entrances to the development from exterior streets. This sign area may be an addition to other sign area limits of this chapter. The signs may be attached to a brick or wooden structure with a maximum height of 10 feet and maximum length of 20 feet, which shall be permitted within a required front yard, provided that required sight distance is not obstructed.
C. 
Durability. Such signs shall be designed to be of a durable construction requiring little maintenance.
D. 
Message. Such signs may only include the name of the development, the names of any uses within the development and any logo. A phone number may only be included during sale or rental of the development. Such signs shall not include any advertising.
E. 
Landscaping. Such signs shall be attractively landscaped, with plants and shrubs requiring minimal maintenance.
F. 
Location. Such signs and structures shall be located outside of the existing and future street rights-of-way lines and shall satisfy the sight distance requirements of § 445-74.
G. 
Maintenance. If such signs are intended to remain beyond the completion of a developer's involvement in a project, the developer shall provide an appropriate method to ensure proper maintenance of the sign.
H. 
Illumination. Such signs in a residential district shall not be illuminated.
I. 
Directional signs within a major business development.
(1) 
When allowed. A directional business sign is allowed at each intersection of two or more streets within an office, commercial or industrial development that involves a total of 20 or more acres.
(2) 
Size. Each sign may have a total square footage of 120 square feet on each of two sides. The sign shall be an orderly single structure and may include on it the names and logos of all the businesses located in the development, along with directional arrows and a map.
(3) 
Purpose. The signs allowed by this subsection are to direct visitors to businesses. These signs are not intended for routine advertising purposes.
(4) 
Illumination. Such signs may be externally but not internally illuminated.