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City of Washington, PA
Washington County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the Mayor and Council of the City of Washington 5-14-1998 by Ord. No. 1588 (Ch. 19 of the 1986 Code of Ordinances). Amendments noted where applicable.]
GENERAL REFERENCES
Construction codes — See Ch. 130.
Obscenity — See Ch. 228.
Zoning — See Ch. 350.
Signs may be erected and maintained only when in compliance with the provisions of this chapter and any and all other ordinances and regulations of the City of Washington which may be applicable.
For the purpose of this chapter, all signs shall be classified by the following descriptions:
A. 
Advertising. A sign that offers services or goods produced or available somewhere other than on the lot on which the sign is located. The words "advertising sign" include the word "billboard." Neither directional warning nor other signs posted by public officials in the course of their public duty shall be construed as advertising signs.
B. 
Business and/or identification. A sign for permitted use conducted on the premises that shall identify the written name and/or type of business and/or any trademark of an article for sale or rent on the premises or otherwise call attention to a use conducted on the premises.
C. 
Instructional. A sign conveying instructions with respect to the use of the premises or a portion of the premises on which it is maintained or a use or practice being conducted on the premises.
D. 
Nameplate. Any freestanding sign or sign attached directly to the wall of a building indicating the name and/or address of the occupant.
E. 
Temporary. Any sign that offers premises for sale, rent or development or advertises the services of professionals or building trades during construction or alteration of the premises upon which the sign is located.
For the purposes of this chapter, all signs may be grouped by the method of their construction, as follows:
A. 
Freestanding pole signs. A sign that is independently supported by one or more supports and not connected to any building or structure.
B. 
Freestanding ground signs. An independently supported sign on a foundation that is not a freestanding pole sign and not connected to any building or structure.
C. 
Building sign. A sign defined herein mounted on a wall, canopy, window or other portion of any building, or painted thereon, not exceeding the size of the facade of the building on which it is located and not protruding more than 10 inches beyond the wall on which said sign is mounted, painted or otherwise attached.
The following shall not be subject to the provisions of this chapter and shall not require a permit for erection unless otherwise specifically cited herein:
A. 
Signs of a duly constituted local, state or federal governmental body, including traffic and similarly safety and regulatory devices, legal notices, railway warning signals, memorial signs or tablets.
B. 
Small signs with a surface area not exceeding three square feet, displayed for the direction or convenience of the public, which identify landmarks, parking areas, convenience facilities, meeting times and place of public, nonprofit service or charitable organizations.
C. 
One temporary nonlighted sign on a construction site, not exceeding an area of 32 square feet, denoting engineer, architect, contractor or funding agencies and related information regarding the development.
D. 
Flags of a political, civic or noncommercial religious or educational organization.
E. 
One temporary nonlighted real estate property sign pertaining to the sale, lease, hire or rental of property on which the sign is displayed, not exceeding the area of six square feet.
F. 
Temporary signs advertising noncommercial private garage and similar sales, street fairs or other temporary activities, or such temporary sign directing persons to the location of such activity. Such signs shall not exceed four square feet, shall be limited to one sign per site, and shall be erected no sooner than seven days prior to the event and shall be removed within 24 hours of the termination of the event. Signs shall be erected only when permission has been granted. No signs shall be permitted in a dedicated public right-of-way.
G. 
Political campaign signs not exceeding six square feet. Such signs shall be erected no sooner than 45 days prior to the scheduled election, shall be removed within seven days after the election and shall be erected only on sites where permission has been granted by the owner thereof. No sign shall be permitted in a dedicated public right-of-way.
[Amended 4-17-2003 by Ord. No. 1714]
The following standard shall apply to signs in all zoning districts of the City of Washington.
A. 
No sign shall be located, designated or constructed in a manner to obstruct or interfere with any traffic control signal, device, sign or intersection sight triangle.
B. 
No sign shall be permitted that is deemed to constitute a hazard of any kind, obscure light or air from any building, or prevent ingress or egress from any window or exit.
C. 
Signs may not be attached to any type of pole or street tree except for municipal purposes.
D. 
A sign shall be removed within 30 days whenever the circumstances that led to its erection no long apply or if safety violations occur. It may be removed by the City at the expense of the owner or lessee of the subject property. Circumstances that dictate sign removal shall include, but not be limited to, the following:
(1) 
The creation of a safety hazard.
(2) 
Dilapidation, as determined by the Zoning Officer.
(3) 
Vacancy or termination of the subject business for more than six months.
(4) 
Legal transfer of ownership of a property that involves a change of name or business activity.
(5) 
The completion of an event, business transaction or other activity for which the sign was originally installed.
(6) 
Any illegality under the provisions of this chapter or regulation of a duly constituted governmental authority.
E. 
Signs shall be subject to the following regulations:
(1) 
All lighting and illumination of signs shall conform to regulations regarding traffic hazards as specified in local and state regulations and shall not cause undue distractions, confusion or hazard.
(2) 
Signs or devices with flashing, moving or similar lighting or animation are prohibited in all zoning districts.
(3) 
Illuminating arrangements for signs shall be such that the light is concentrated upon such sign and that there shall be no glare cast upon the street, the sidewalk or adjacent properties.
(4) 
No electrical bulbs shall be exposed unless satisfactorily shielded from view by a globe or other visible barrier.
F. 
Business signs shall be permitted only when in connection with a legal business or industry located on the immediate premises.
G. 
Auxiliary signs vital to the operation of an enterprise such as a certified state auto inspection station, gasoline station or the like, including signs for the recognition of credit cards, the issuance of premium stamps, etc., shall not exceed two in number and each not to exceed six square feet in size. No signs will be permitted to interfere with the safe visibility for pedestrians and drivers. Waving banners and fluttering appurtenances are specifically prohibited from all such establishments.
H. 
Any sign mounted to a wall or other vertical building surface shall not project more than 30 inches from the wall.
I. 
No business or identification sign facing mounted upon a building shall be readable from the rear of the property on which it is located unless authorized as a special exception and only when the property and site involved are bordered by double frontage.
J. 
No business or industrial sign shall be placed to face on an abutting residential district except when authorized as a special exception.
K. 
The size of the sign shall refer to the area of the sign facing, including any border framing or decorative attachment. In the case of freestanding letters, it shall be the area contained between the highest and lowest parts of any letters and the extremity points of the first and last letters.
L. 
All signs shall be subject to the performance standards of the zoning district within which they are proposed to be located.
M. 
Notwithstanding any provision of any City of Washington ordinance, no sign mounted to a wall or other structures shall be located less than 10 feet in height as measured from the sidewalk, porch or entrance area of said building or structure to the bottom or lowest part of the sign.
Signs shall be installed and maintained on the basis of classification and type, subject to the following provisions. Permitted signs shall be limited to signs normally used in conjunction with a business and erected at the site of such business unless otherwise specified by this chapter.
A. 
Advertising signs (billboards). All advertising signs shall be prohibited in the City of Washington, except as provided herein. However, signboards may be erected and maintained in commercial and developmental districts when they relate to or refer directly to the use conducted on the premises (on the same lot at the principal structure), or to the materials or products made, sold or displayed on the premises' lot.
(1) 
Advertising signs may be permitted as a conditional use when approved by the Mayor of the City of Washington and the Council members after submission, review and affirmative recommendation by the Planning Commission, and further provided, the following requirements are met:
(a) 
Location. Advertising signs may not be erected within an R1, R2 or R3 Zoning District or within 500 feet of the boundary lines of said districts, or within 500 feet of the property line of any public or private school property. Required spacing shall be measured from a point perpendicular to the centermost point of the advertising sign structure along the front line parallel to the center line of the roadway to which the sign is oriented.
(b) 
Size and height.
[1] 
Advertising signs shall have a maximum allowable gross surface area of 750 square feet per sign face. An advertising sign may have a maximum of two sign faces per advertising sign structure. However, the gross surface area of each sign face shall not exceed the 750 square feet maximum. As used in this section, "gross surface area" shall mean the entire area within a single continuous perimeter enclosing the extreme limits of writing, representation, emblem or any figure or similar character together with any frame or other material or color forming an integral part of the display or used to differentiate the sign from the background against which it is placed, excluding necessary supports or uprights upon which such sign is placed. For signs utilizing individual letters or figures or characters mounted directly on the wall or face of a structure, the gross surface area shall be the entire area within a single continuous perimeter enclosing the extreme limits of the writing, representation or other communication material. As used herein, sign face shall mean the entire area upon which graphic or written material or information is placed for viewing in a single direction.
[2] 
Advertising sign structure may have sign faces placed back to back on a single advertising sign structure.
[3] 
The advertising sign's gross surface area shall not exceed 23 feet in total height or 60 feet in total length. In conjunction with those heights, said sign must fall within the property owner's own property. Therefore, said sign must be positioned accordingly so that it will maintain this stipulation.
(c) 
Construction methods. Advertising signs shall be constructed in accordance with all applicable provisions of the City of Washington ordinances. In addition thereto:
[1] 
An advertising sign structure shall have a maximum of one vertical support, being a maximum of 48 inches in diameter or width and without bracing or vertical supports.
[2] 
An advertising sign face shall be independently supported and have vertical supports of metal which are galvanized or otherwise treated to prevent rust and corrosion.
[3] 
The one vertical support shall be capable of enabling the entire sign face to be able to withstand a minimum eighty-mile-per-hour wind load.
[4] 
The entire base of the advertising structure (that is, sign face) shall be permanently landscaped with suitable shrubbery and/or bushes a minimum height of three feet and placed in such a manner as to screen the foundation of the structure.
[5] 
Landscaping shall be maintained by the sign owner in an attractive and healthy manner in accordance with accepted conservation practices.
[6] 
Permanent landscaping shall form a base and/or backdrop to the advertising sign when practical in the opinion of the Zoning Officer.
[7] 
All grading shall be in accordance with the City of Washington ordinance.
[8] 
No bare cuts are permitted on a hillside.
[9] 
All cuts or fills must be permanently seeded or planted.
[10] 
An advertising sign with display lighting shall be constructed so that it does not glare upon adjoining properties and shall not exceed a maximum footcandle of 1.5 upon the adjoining properties.
[11] 
Display lighting shall not operate between 12:00 midnight and 5:00 a.m. prevailing local time without the written consent of the Zoning Officer.
[12] 
No advertising sign, its structure, sign face or display lighting shall move, flash or emit noise. No display lighting shall cause distraction, confusion, nuisance or hazard to traffic, aircraft or other properties.
[13] 
The use of colored lighting is not permitted.
[14] 
The minimum front, size or rear yard requirements applying to a principal use as set forth within a zoning district in which the advertising sign is to be located shall apply to each advertising sign structure.
[15] 
The maximum lot coverage as specified in this chapter shall apply to any lot upon which an advertising sign structure is located and shall be cumulative, including any other structures and buildings on the same lot therewith.
[16] 
No advertising sign shall be erected in such a manner as to block the view from the road or street of any existing business sign, logo sign, residential or nonresidential structure, or limit or reduce the light and ventilation requirements, if any, under the City of Washington's ordinance.
[17] 
No advertising sign shall be constructed within the clear sight triangle of the public street or road on which it is situated and shall not in any case obstruct or impede traffic safety.
[18] 
Advertising signs shall maintain a lateral minimum spacing of 750 feet between advertising sign structures. Required spacing shall be measured from a point perpendicular to the centermost point of the advertising sign structure to the front lot line parallel to the center line of the roadway to which the advertising sign is oriented.
[19] 
Advertising signs may not be mounted on the roof, wall or other part of the building or any other structure.
(d) 
Maintenance.
[1] 
An advertising sign structure shall be entirely painted every three years.
[2] 
Even 10 years, the owner of an advertising sign shall have a structural inspection made of each such sign by a qualified Pennsylvania registered engineer or architect and shall provide to the City a written certificate and report from the engineer or architect certifying that each advertising sign is structurally sound.
[3] 
The City may annually visually inspect each and every advertising sign to determine compliance with City ordinances. This inspection is not to be deemed an engineering and/or structural inspection and is not in lieu of the inspection required by § 286-6A(1)(d)[2] above.
[4] 
Advertising signs found to be in violation of any City ordinance or for which no certification required by § 286-6A(1)(d)[2] is obtained or with respect to which an annual inspection fee is unpaid shall be brought into compliance therewith or removed within 30 days upon written notification by the City.
[5] 
Advertising signs using removable paper or materials shall be maintained in such condition as to eliminate loose or frayed material protruding or hanging from the structure.
(e) 
Permits. No advertising sign shall be erected without first obtaining a permit from the City. Prior to applying for such a permit, the applicant shall first obtain the approval of applicable authorities, including, but not limited to, Zoning Officer of the City of Washington. Applications for permits shall be issued in the name of all owners of the real estate on which the advertising sign is erected and the owner of the sign.
(f) 
The City of Washington Mayor and Council members may, by resolution, establish fees for permit applications and inspections referred to herein pursuant to § 286-6 of this chapter. No permit shall be issued without the application and the first year's inspection fees having first been paid.
(g) 
Presently existing advertising signs.
[1] 
No advertising sign existing in the City of Washington as of the effective date of this chapter shall be expanded in any size, dimension or manner except as may be otherwise provided in this subsection.
[2] 
The provisions of this section pertaining to the safety of advertising signs shall apply to all presently existing advertising signs. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, the provisions of § 286-6A(1)(c)[10], (d), (f) and (h) shall apply as aforesaid.
[3] 
In the event a presently existing advertising sign is removed and a replacement sign is erected in its place, the replacement sign must be built in complete conformity with this section.
(h) 
Miscellaneous.
[1] 
The Zoning Officer for the City is authorized to prepare and utilize such forms as may be required for carrying out the provisions pertaining to advertising signs.
[2] 
Advertising signs must comply with all applicable federal government and state laws and regulations as well as all local ordinances. Breach of any such law, regulation or ordinance shall be grounds for notice to remove the sign. In the event the subject sign is not removed within 60 days after receipt of notice, the City may cause the sign to be removed and collect the costs of such removal, including attorneys' fees, from the owners of the real estate on which the sign is erected or from the owners of the sign. The City may collect said costs by any remedy it shall select, including, but not limited to, indexing said costs as a municipal claim. The utilization of one remedy shall not be deemed an exhaustion of remedies, and the City may select further remedies until said costs are fully recovered.
[3] 
No advertising signs shall contain any form of obscene language or gestures that would constitute a violation of the City of Washington Obscenity Ordinance, Chapter 228 of this Code.
B. 
Business and identification signs.
(1) 
Business signs for home occupations are prohibited in all zoned areas of the City of Washington.
(2) 
Business signs for establishments situated on independently developed parcels within the General Business Districts, Business Improvement Districts and Developmental Districts shall meet the following criteria:
(a) 
Number of signs per unit of use.
[1] 
One freestanding ground sign and one building sign.
[2] 
One freestanding pole sign and one building sign.
[3] 
Up to two building signs when not in conjunction with freestanding ground or pole signs.
(b) 
Building signs shall not exceed 64 square feet per unit of use when in conjunction with ground or pole signs. When used exclusive of pole or ground signs, the total combined area of all building signs shall not exceed 64 square feet plus 50% of the maximum areas specified for ground or pole signs in Subsection B(2)(c)[1] and [2] below.
(c) 
Maximum area of freestanding ground or pole sign:
[1] 
Maximum area of each sign for the first 100 lineal feet of frontage shall be 50 square feet.
[2] 
Additional allowable space after the first 100 lineal feet of frontage shall be one square foot per each two additional lineal feet of highway frontage, but not to exceed a total of 150 square feet for each sign.
(d) 
Maximum area of combined signs. The combined maximum area of all business signs for establishments on independent parcels shall not exceed 114 square feet for the first 100 lineal feet of frontage. The combined maximum area of all business signs after the first 100 lineal feet of frontage shall not exceed 214 square feet.
(e) 
Double frontage provisions. When parcels in the General Business Districts, Developmental Districts and Business Improvement Districts are bounded by two major thoroughfares which serve predominantly commercial, industrial or regional traffic flows, the Zoning Hearing Board may authorize increases in combined sign area limits not to exceed 50% of permitted maximums, provided that:
[1] 
Contiguous residential districts do not front on the opposite side of the thoroughfare.
[2] 
Sign area limits are apportioned equally on both frontages of the subject property.
(f) 
Multibusiness sign displays. Joint sign displays for advertising on-site locations, goods and services permitted in the General Business Districts, Developmental Districts and the Business Improvement Districts by two or more independent businesses on contiguous sites or two or more independent businesses in a multi-use building may be permitted, provided that the following provisions are adhered to:
[1] 
One freestanding pole or freestanding ground sign may be erected jointly by two or more such businesses in lieu of individual signs. Such a sign may exceed the maximum dimensional requirements specified in § 286-6B of this chapter by 2.5% for each business that utilizes the sign. The total of said increases may be up to, but shall not exceed, 10% of the normal maximum dimensional requirements for a single sign.
[2] 
In addition to signs permitted in Subsection B(2)(f)[1] above, and all provisions for building signs specified in this Subsection B, integrated stack signs or building sign clusters not exceeding four square feet per business may be erected.
[3] 
All signs established as a joint endeavor under the provisions of this Subsection B(2)(f) shall be aesthetically and architecturally coordinated and subject to the approval of the Planning Commission and the Mayor and Council members of the City.
[4] 
All other applicable requirements of Chapter 350, Zoning, which apply to business signs for independently developed parcels in the General Business Districts, Developmental Districts and the Business Improvement Districts shall apply.
(g) 
Freestanding ground signs and pole signs shall conform to the following requirements:
[1] 
Except for traffic directional signs, all ground pole signs must be placed a minimum of 15 feet from the street right-of-way.
[2] 
Freestanding signs shall be located in a manner that precludes falling beyond the property on which they are located.
[3] 
No decorative base for a pole sign may exceed 2.5 feet in height.
[4] 
No freestanding pole sign, except for its supports, may occupy the area between 2.5 feet and 10 feet from the ground if said sign or support would in any manner obstruct sight distances required for the safe and efficient movement of vehicular and pedestrian traffic.
[5] 
No ground sign or pole sign shall at any point be more than 25 feet above the level of the adjacent street surface.
(3) 
Business signs established for shopping centers in the General Business Districts, Developmental Districts and Business Improvements Districts shall meet the following criteria:
(a) 
Number of signs per each development center or park:
[1] 
One freestanding pole sign; or one freestanding ground sign at facilities constructed on an area of 50 acres or less.
[2] 
For facilities with highway frontage of between 51 lineal feet and 250 lineal feet, the following requirements shall apply:
Highway Frontage
(lineal feet)
Maximum Sign Areas
(square feet)
51 to 100
200
101 to 150
300
151 to 250
400
[3] 
Five hundred square feet maximum at facilities with highway frontage in excess of 250 lineal feet.
[4] 
In addition, miscellaneous pole or ground signs may be installed for purposes of traffic and parking direction. Such signs shall not exceed eight square feet in area. Placement, number and design of such signs shall be subject to review by the Planning Commission.
(b) 
Signs per unit of use affixed to the subject premises within the site shall be limited to:
[1] 
One building sign per unit of use.
[2] 
Sign area per unit of use shall not exceed 2.5 square feet times the width in feet of the frontage of the unit.
[3] 
No sign shall exceed 200 square feet per unit of use.
(4) 
Identification signs for public and semipublic activities may be installed as follows:
(a) 
A limit of one sign per unit of use.
(b) 
Bulletin board and signs for a church, school, community building or other public or semipublic institutional building and permitted conditional use shall be permitted, provided the area used for lettering of such bulletin board or sign shall not exceed 20 square feet in area.
(c) 
The total area of such bulletin board or sign, including any supporting masonry work, metal work, trim or necessary supports, shall not exceed 50 square feet in area.
(d) 
All such signs shall be compatible with the architecture of the primary use.
(5) 
Residential provisions.
(a) 
In any residential district, no sign shall be permitted except nameplates and temporary signs, as defined in this chapter.
C. 
Instructional signs.
(1) 
Instructional signs may be represented by freestanding ground signs or building signs and shall not exceed four square feet in area.
(2) 
In commercial or industrial properties, such parking and directional signs as may be required to direct and guide traffic and to state the conditions and terms of the use of parking lots may be permitted and shall not be considered in computation of permitted sign area.
D. 
Nameplates.
(1) 
A limit of one sign per unit of use.
(2) 
Maximum sign area shall not exceed two square feet in area.
E. 
Temporary signs. As defined by this chapter, may be permitted, subject to the following regulations:
(1) 
Signs advertising land or premises available for purchase, development or occupancy, or announcement of special event.
(2) 
Real estate signs (on site) advertising the sale or rental of the premises, when erected by the owner, broker or other persons interested in the sale or rental of such premises, may be installed as follows:
(a) 
A limit of one sign for any property held in single and separate ownership.
(b) 
Sign area shall not exceed six square feet.
(3) 
Real estate signs (on site) advertising the development of the premises, when erected by the building, contractor, developer or other persons interested in such development, may be installed as follows:
(a) 
A limit of two signs for any property held in a single and separate ownership.
(b) 
Sign area shall not exceed 20 square feet.
(4) 
Other temporary signs, as defined in this chapter, may be installed, provided that they do not exceed specified size limits.
(5) 
Real estate signs shall be removed within one week after the completion of the sale, rental or development or such other purpose as advertised. All other temporary signs shall be removed as specified by this chapter upon completion of the purpose for which they were erected, and the site or building on which the sign was erected shall be restored to its original condition upon removal of such signs.
A. 
A permit from the City of Washington's Zoning Officer shall be required before a sign of any kind may be erected, altered or enlarged, except:
(1) 
Exempt signs as listed in § 286-4 of this chapter.
(2) 
Nameplates, trespassing signs indicating the private nature of a driveway or property, provided that the size of any sign does not exceed two square feet.
B. 
Each application for a permit shall be accompanied by a drawing to scale showing the proposed sign, the size, general characteristics, method of illumination, the exact location of the sign in relation to the lot and structure involved and other data as may be required by the Zoning Officer.
C. 
No sign shall be erected on property that faces on interstate or other highways under the jurisdiction of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, until valid permits have been granted by both PennDOT and the City of Washington.
D. 
A fee shall accompany each application for a permit. Such fees shall be established by resolution of the Mayor and Council members of the City of Washington.
E. 
The permit fee shall be 5% of the total cost of construction and placement.
[Amended 12-7-2006 by Ord. No. 1766]
A. 
Any individual, person, firm, corporation or other entity who shall violate any provision of this chapter shall, upon being held liable in any civil proceeding or upon conviction thereof, be sentenced to pay a penalty, fine or charge of no less than $100 nor more than the maximum amount permitted by law, but not to exceed $1,000, and in default of payment or any failure to pay any fine or penalty, upon a summary or other criminal conviction, shall be sentenced to imprisonment for a period not to exceed 30 days, or both.
B. 
Each day that a violation of this chapter shall continue shall constitute a separate offense, subject to the fines, costs, penalties and charges set forth above for each offense.
C. 
Nothing herein shall limit, prevent or preclude the City of Washington from taking any and all legal action or exercising any other remedy available to the City by law, including but not limited to the initiation of civil or criminal proceedings or injunctive relief, in order to enforce or ensure compliance with this chapter. As an additional remedy, the City of Washington may abate any nuisance, dangerous or hazardous condition by any means permitted by law, which shall include but not be limited to an action in the Court of Common Pleas of Washington County, Pennsylvania, for injunctive relief; the use of any City of Washington personnel, equipment and materials or that of an authorized agent or contractor hired by the City to remove or abate any nuisance, dangerous or hazardous condition, and with all costs thereof or related thereto to be charged against the property owner(s) and/or person or entity who has violated the chapter or portion thereof; said costs shall include all actual costs and expenses, including all costs of collection and reasonable administrative costs of the City, incurred in enforcing the provisions of the chapter.