Zoning — See Ch. 23.
Under authority of the General Laws, the City of Pittsfield adopts this chapter for the regulation and restriction of signs and other outdoor, visual advertising devices on public ways, on private property within public view, in public parks, and in playgrounds. The purposes of these sign regulations are to encourage the effective use of signs as a means of communication in the City; to maintain and enhance the aesthetic environment of the City; to encourage the City's ability to attract sources of economic development and growth; to improve pedestrian and traffic safety; and to minimize the possible adverse effect of signs on nearby public and private property.
Words and phrases used in this chapter shall have meanings set forth in this section. Words and phrases not defined in this section but defined in the Zoning Ordinance of the City shall be given the meanings set forth in the Zoning Ordinance. All other words and phrases shall be given their common, ordinary meaning, unless the context clearly requires otherwise.
- ACCESSORY SIGN
- A sign relating in its subject matter to the premises upon which it is located or to the primary products, accommodations, services, or activities upon the premises.
- ANIMATED SIGNS
- A sign that uses movement, moving images or changes of lighting to depict action or create a special effect or scene.
- AREA OF SIGN
- The area of a sign shall be determined by measuring the area within the perimeter which forms the outside shape of display elements from the top of the highest display elements to the bottom of the lowest display elements and from exterior side to exterior side of display elements, including in such measurement any black or open area between display elements. Display elements include any letters, words, trademarks, logos, and symbols. Any frame around the sign shall be included in the measurement, but the measurement shall not include any supporting structure or bracing. Any such measurement shall be taken on only one face of the sign, although informational or advertising matter may be displayed on both sides of any permitted sign.
- A sign in excess of 200 square feet in area and located on a lot, building or roof but unrelated to a business or profession conducted, to a service offered or to a commodity sold upon the premises where such sign is located.
- BUILDING SIGN
- A sign attached to any part of a building, as contrasted with a freestanding sign, including wall signs, projecting signs and window signs.
- A single store, office, research facility, manufacturing facility, or noncommercial establishment, or similar location for a single activity.
- BUSINESS CENTER
- A group of five or more businesses which collectively have a name different from the name of any of the individual businesses and which have common private parking and entrance facilities.
- COMMERCIAL MESSAGE
- Any wording, logo, or other representation that, directly or indirectly, names, advertises, or calls attention to a business, product, accommodation, service, or commercial activity.
- DIRECTORY SIGN
- A sign which lists the tenants or occupants of a premises and may indicate respective professions.
- FREESTANDING SIGN
- A sign supported by uprights, braces, structures or supports that are placed on or anchored in the ground and that are independent from any building or other structure, including pole signs, ground signs and sandwich signs.
- GROUND SIGN
- A freestanding sign in contact with or within six inches of the ground surface.
- HISTORIC SIGN
- An accessory sign 50 or more years old that is structurally safe, or any other sign designated by an accredited historic association or governmental agency to have historical significance.
- ILLUMINATED SIGN
- A sign that has characters, letters, figures, designs, or outlines illuminated by electric lights or luminous tubes.
- INCIDENTAL SIGN
- An informational sign, no larger than two square feet, which has a purpose secondary to the use of the premises on which it is located, such as "loading only," "no parking," "entrance," "telephone," "credit cards accepted," "open," "closed," "back in one hour" and other similar directives. No sign with a commercial message with lettering greater than two inches in height shall be considered an incidental sign.
- INSPECTOR OF BUILDINGS
- The duly appointed inspector of buildings for the City of Pittsfield, local inspector, or any alternate inspector who meets the qualifications set forth in 780 CMR 107.3.
- A parcel of land in single ownership that is recognized as a separate zoning lot.
- MARQUEE SIGN
- A projecting sign attached to or hung from a marquee, canopy or other covered structure, projecting from and supported by the building and extending beyond the building wall, building line or street line.
- POLE SIGN
- A freestanding sign elevated more than six inches above the ground surface by a supporting structure.
- PORTABLE SIGN
- A sign not securely anchored to the ground or to a building or structure and which obtains some or all of its structural stability with respect to wind or other normally applied force by means of its geometry or character, or a sign designed to be transported, including, but not limited to, posters, sandwich signs, temporary signs, balloons, flags used as signs, banners, streamers, pennants, umbrellas used for advertising, wheeled signs, signs on portable letter boards, and signs mounted on, attached to or painted on vehicles parked and visible from a public right-of-way.
- A sign no more than eight square feet in area printed on cardboard, paper or other similar nondurable material and not permanently attached to the ground, a building or other permanent structure. Said sign shall include, but not be limited to, the advertising of goods and services that are weekly or monthly specials, or other types of temporary specials. Said signs shall be exempt from the limitations set forth in Section 5.3A and B, but shall not be exempt from the provisions of Section 4.8.
- A single residence, building or place of business.
- PROJECTING SIGN
- A sign attached directly to a building wall, and which extends more than 15 inches from the face of the wall, including, without limitation, so-called shingle signs, marquee signs and signs on canopies and awnings.
- SANDWICH SIGNS
- An A-frame, T-frame, menu or sandwich sign.
- Any fabricated sign or outdoor display structure, including its structure, consisting of any letter, figure, character, mark, point, plane, marquee sign, design, poster, pictorial, picture, stroke, stripe, line, trademark, reading matter or illuminating device, constructed, attached, erected, fastened or manufactured in any manner whatsoever so that the same shall be used for the attraction of the public to any place, subject, person, firm, corporation, public performance, article, machine or merchandise whatsoever, and displayed in any manner to advertise, identify, or communicate information of any kind to the public. All such devices, fixtures, placards and structures visible from a public right-of-way, whether on the exterior or interior of a building, shall be considered signs.
- STREET LINE
- The boundary of the pubic right-of-way and private property, although the way may not have been constructed to its full width or although less than its full width is open or devoted to public travel.
- TEMPORARY SIGN
- A sign constructed of cloth, fabric or other light temporary material, with or without a structural frame, intended for a limited period of display and not permanently mounted, including a decoration display for holidays or public demonstrations, poster, other paper or cardboard sign, flag, banner, streamer, pennant, string of lights, or string of pennants.
- WALL SIGN
- A sign painted on or attached directly to a fence or to the surface of masonry, concrete, frame or other approved building wall and which extends not more than 15 inches from the face of the fence or wall.
- WINDOW SIGN
- A sign on exterior windowpanes or glass or placed inside an exterior window or mounted inside the window and intended to be visible from the exterior of the window.
Articles 25-5 through 25-8 of this chapter shall not apply to the following signs:
Noncommercial signs. Signs having no commercial message and which bear only house numbers, post box numbers, names of residents, or identification of premises and not exceeding two square feet in area per premises.
Flags. Governmental flags and governmental insignia, except when displayed with a commercial message or in connection with a commercial promotion.
Legal notices. Legal notices and identifications not exceeding two square feet in area, including "No Trespassing" and "No Hunting" signs.
Information and directional signs. Informational, directional, traffic or warning signs erected or required by governmental agencies or bodies, including signs directing traffic to hospitals, parking areas, highways, cultural institutions and commercial areas.
Memorial signs. Memorial signs, plaques, or tablets.
For sale signs. "For Sale" or "For Rent" signs, not exceeding (a) eight square feet in aggregate area per premises in a nonresidential district or (b) six square feet in aggregate area per premises in a residential district and which advertise for sale or for rent only the premises upon which the sign is located. Sections 4.8 and 4.10 of this chapter shall also not apply to such signs. Such signs shall be removed promptly when the advertised sale or rental is concluded.
Historical markers. Historical markers erected or placed by an accredited historical association or governmental agency.
Historical signs. Historic signs.
Vending machine signs. Permanent signs on vending machines, gas pumps, ice containers or similar devices indicating only the contents of such devices.
Works of art. Works of art that do not include a commercial message.
Holiday lights. Holiday lights and decorations which do not include a commercial message, and which are displayed for a limited period of time no longer than 75 continuous days and no longer than 120 days per year at any premises.
Signs exempted by law. Signs described in MGL c. 93, § 32.
Roof signs. No sign shall be placed on a building above the eveline or gable, hip, or gambrel; above the parapet or eve on a flat or deck roof; on any part of or above the mansard portion of a mansard or French style roof; or on any part of or above the roof portion of an A-frame structure.
Illuminated signs. Any illuminated sign shall employ only lights emitting a constant intensity, and no sign shall be illuminated by a flashing, intermittent, rotating, or moving light or lights. In no event shall an illuminated sign or lighting device be placed or directed to permit the beam or illumination to cause glare or reflection that may constitute a traffic hazard or nuisance. Illuminated signs in or adjacent to a residential district shall be either (a) turned off between 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. or (b) sufficiently screened so as to prevent a beam or illumination from shining into any adjoining residence.
Traffic signs. No sign, except as otherwise provided in this chapter, shall use the words "stop," "danger," or any other word, phrase, symbol, or character that might be misconstrued as a public safety warning or traffic sign.
Freestanding signs. The top of a freestanding sign shall not exceed in height the lesser of (a) 25 feet above grade or (b) five feet higher above grade than the distance from the base of the pole to the street line. A freestanding sign shall not be placed within five feet of the street line or lot line of the premises (or, if the distance between a building on the premises and the lot line or street line shall be less than 10 feet, 1/2 of such distance), nor within the setback required by the Zoning Ordinance, if any. If a pole sign shall be within 10 feet of a street line, it shall have a minimum clearance of 10 feet between grade and the bottom of the sign.
Traffic sight lines. No sign shall be erected so as to constrict traffic sight lines for drivers or pedestrians. A freestanding sign shall not be placed within the triangle formed by connecting the point at the intersection of any street lines with the points on each street line 20 feet from such intersection.
Abandoned signs. Any sign which has been abandoned or which advertises a business no longer conducted at the premises shall be removed within 30 days of abandonment or cessation of such business.
Moving signs. Rotating signs, animated signs, rotating beacons, and otherwise moving signs shall be prohibited.
Temporary signs. Temporary signs (other than posters) shall not be posted for more than 75 continuous days. Posters shall not be displayed for more than 120 continuous days. If any premises shall have any temporary signs posted for more than 120 days in any calendar year, all such signs at such premises shall not be considered temporary signs for the purposes of this chapter. Temporary signs must be removed promptly when the event advertised is concluded.
Posters. Posters shall not be placed closer than five feet from the lot lines or street line (or, if the distance between a building on the premises and the lot line or street line shall be less than 10 feet, 1/2 of such distance) and are otherwise subject to the same restrictions as other temporary signs.
Portable signs. Portable signs shall be prohibited, except (a) those painted or affixed to a duly registered motor vehicle, provided that such vehicle is not continuously parked in one location for a period in excess of two weeks and is used in the day-to-day operation of the business conducted at the premises at which such vehicle is parked, (b) temporary signs otherwise in compliance with this chapter, and (c) sandwich signs otherwise in compliance with this chapter and all regulations of the Department of Public Services.
[Ord. No. 1160, § I, 9-29-2015]
Number of signs. The total number of signs (excluding permitted temporary signs and excluding signs described in Article 25-3) shall not exceed five per business, and the total number of signs (including permitted temporary signs but excluding signs described in Article 25-3) shall not exceed eight per business. For the purpose of determining number of signs, a sign shall be considered to be a single display surface or display device containing elements organized, related and composed for form a unit.
Sign posts. Sign posts and supports shall not contain lettering.
Pole signs. When calculating square feet of signs for purposes of maximum square footage allowed by this chapter, the actual square footage of pole signs shall be multiplied by 125%. Pole signs shall be limited to one per lot, regardless of the number of businesses. No pole sign shall be constructed within 50 feet of another pole sign.
Signs for multiple businesses. Freestanding signs containing signs for more than one business shall not exceed 100 square feet in the aggregate and shall only contain signs of consistent and uniform coloring, lighting, lettering and other characteristics.
Projecting signs. Projecting signs (except those on marquees, canopies and awnings) shall not extend more than five feet over the public right-of-way. Marquee signs and projecting signs on canopies and awnings shall not extend more than eight feet over the public right-of-way. Projecting signs shall not be closer than three feet to the curbline. No portion of any projecting sign (or such marquee, canopy or awning on which it is located) shall be lower than 10 feet above grade. All canopies and awnings shall comply with other applicable ordinances and regulations.
Marquees. The changeable copy of marquee signs shall contain only advertising for current or upcoming events. Each marquee shall be constructed to meet the following requirements:
It shall be equipped with gutters and conductors for the purpose of draining water toward the building to which it is attached, and shall not discharge ice, water or snow onto the street or the walk;
If such marquee shall be glazed, it shall be glazed with wire glass not less than 1/4 of an inch in thickness and be safely supported; and
It shall safely support its own weight plus a superimposed load of 30 pounds per square foot, equally distributed, in addition to any concentrated load to which it may be subjected.
Window signs. Window signs shall not exceed in aggregate square feet 60% of the total square footage of the window or glass door on which they are located, except that temporary window signs, posted for no longer than 75 days (a) in connection with the opening of a business or (b) during the period from August 25 through November 8 of any election year, may cover the entire window area.
Structural condition. All signs shall be maintained in a good repair, in good structural condition and in compliance with all building and electrical codes. No sign shall be erected so as to obstruct any door, window or fire escape.
Trees, etc. No sign shall be permitted on trees, light poles, telephone poles, or street identification signs.
Accessory signs. Signs solely advertising brand names or products sold at the premises shall not be considered accessory signs, unless such brand name products constitute the majority of products sold at the premises.
Districts. For the purpose of this chapter, the districts as established on the City of Pittsfield Zoning Map, as amended from time to time, are hereby adopted by reference.
Signs permitted in all districts without a permit from the inspector of buildings. The following signs are allowed in all districts without a permit from the inspector of buildings, payment of a fee or posting of a bond.
Civic organizations. One accessory sign per premises not to exceed 24 square feet in area for any of the following organizations: religious institutions, school, museum, civic or service organization, community recreational facility, or library, such sign to indicate only the name, current displays, or current activities of such organization.
Home occupations. One accessory sign per premises not to exceed two square feet advertising a permitted home occupation.
Directory signs. Directory signs not to exceed 12 square feet in area.
Entryway signs. Signs on an entryway to the City containing information regarding community or civic organizations, not to exceed either (a) one sign per entryway per organization not to exceed two square feet in area each or (b) one sign per entryway for all such organizations not to exceed 12 square feet in area; all such signs subject to applicable regulations of the Department of Public Services and the Highway Department.
Directional signs. Directional signs for the purpose of giving directions to a religious institution, school, museum, community recreational facility, library, or licensed inn holder, not to exceed two square feet in area, and subject to applicable regulations of the Department of Public Services.
[Ord. No. 1160, § II, 9-29-2015]
Construction site signs. Signs on active construction sites that denote the contractor, architect, engineer, or funding agency, not to exceed 24 square feet in area in the aggregate per site in nonresidential districts or 12 square feet in area in the aggregate per site in residential districts.
Temporary signs. Temporary signs not to exceed 12 square feet in aggregate area per premises in a residential district and not to exceed 50 square feet in aggregate area per premises in a nonresidential district.
Posters. Posters of religious, charitable, civic, fraternal, political, or similar organizations or of candidates for political office.
Signs permitted in residential districts with permits from the inspector of buildings and payment of a fee. The following signs allowed in residential districts require a permit from the inspector of buildings, and payment of a fee as set forth in Article 25-6:
Subdivision signs. One sign advertising any real estate development or subdivision, not to exceed 12 square feet in area.
Nonresidential use in residential district. One unlighted accessory sign per premises advertising a permitted nonresidential use in a residential district (other than permitted home occupations), not to exceed 12 square feet in area.
Signs permitted in business, industrial and special districts with permits from the inspector of buildings and payment of a fee. Signs in business, industrial and special districts require a permit from the inspector of buildings and payment of a fee as set forth in Article 25-6, and are subject to the following restrictions:
Sign limits. Each business in a business, industrial or special district shall be allowed one or more accessory signs which shall not exceed 100 square feet in the aggregate, provided that a business with frontage on two or more streets shall be allowed an additional accessory sign or signs directed toward such additional street or streets which shall not exceed 50 additional square feet in the aggregate.
Frontage limits. The combined surface area of all signs on any premises shall not exceed four square feet in the aggregate per linear foot of frontage of the face of the building or of the lot on which such signs are located, whichever is greater.
Business center signs. In addition to other signs allowed to individual businesses, a business center shall be allowed one common accessory sign for each approved curb cut or driveway, not to exceed 100 square feet in area and only for the purpose of identifying the business center and the individual businesses. Signs for any individual business not in excess of 10 square feet per business or 50 square feet in the aggregate shall be allowed on such sign, provided that such individual business signs included on such common business center sign shall be consistent with the business center sign with uniform colorings, lighting, lettering and other characteristics.
Sandwich signs. Sandwich signs shall be allowed in business, industrial or special districts. Sandwich signs shall not exceed 12 square feet in area each and shall not exceed one square foot in the aggregate per lineal foot of frontage of the face of the building or of the lot on which such signs are located, whichever is greater. Sandwich signs must be within 15 feet of the advertised premises and must relate in subject matter to accommodations, services or activities upon the advertised premises. Sandwich signs must comply with applicable regulations of the Department of Public Services.
[Ord. No. 1160, § III, 9-29-2015]
Projection signs. Projecting signs shall be allowed in BID Districts only. Only one projecting sign shall be allowed per business, and shall be allowed only instead of, not in addition to, any permitted freestanding signs. Projecting signs shall not exceed 15 square feet in area, and shall not exceed one square foot of sign area per lineal foot of frontage of the face of the building or of the lot on which such sign is located, whichever is greater, except that marquee signs shall not exceed 50 square feet on each surface. No projecting signs shall be constructed within 30 feet of another projecting sign. Projecting signs shall require the posting of a bond as set forth in Section 6.3.
"Open" flags. "Open" flags shall be allowed in business, industrial or special districts. One flag shall be allowed per premises, in good repair, no larger than six square feet in area, without a commercial message, displayed only while the business conducted at the premises is open, and indicating that the business conducted at the premises is open or other similar message.
Applications. For all signs permitted by Sections 5.3 and 5.4, the owner of the premises (or owner's agent) shall apply to the inspector of buildings for the issuance of a sign permit on such application form as shall be acceptable to the inspector of buildings. All applications shall indicate the size, location, lighting, building materials and specifications for each proposed sign. The inspector of buildings shall be responsible for the review of the application, issuance of the sign permit, and enforcement of the provisions of this chapter. The inspector of buildings shall act upon a completed sign application within 60 days of its receipt. Each permit issued under the provisions of this chapter shall continue in effect until the sign is removed or the sign permit is revoked, canceled or otherwise terminated. The granting of a sign permit shall not relieve the owner or operator from procuring any permit or license required by any other provision of law or of this Code or other ordinances of the City.
Fees. Signs permitted by Sections 5.3 and 5.4 require the payment of a fee for the issuance of a sign permit. Said fee shall be $50 for any sign costing less than or equal to $2,000 to construct and install and $150 for any sign costing more than $2,000 to construct and install, payable to the office of the inspector of buildings upon the issuance of the sign permit.
Bonds. Projecting signs require the posting of a bond with the inspector of buildings, satisfactory to the City Solicitor as to form, and in the penal sum hereinafter set forth, duly executed by the applicant and a surety company qualified to do business in the commonwealth, conditioned to indemnify the City against any and all claims (including the cost of a trial) for personal injuries, consequential damages, and death, or damage to property resulting from the placing, construction, or maintenance or removal of such sign, and further conditioned to pay all judgments obtained against the owner or operator of the premises upon or to which the sign is to be placed, or against any person subsequently becoming the owner or operator of such premises, or the owner of such sign, or liable for its proper maintenance, by reason of personal injuries or damage to property resulting from the placing, construction or maintenance or removal of such sign. The penal sum of such bonds shall be as follows:
For damage to property, $100,000; and
For personal injuries, including consequential damages and death, $1,000,000.
Such bond or one similar in effect and amount shall be maintained in force for each such sign as long as it is maintained or until permission is given by the inspector of buildings to release or discharge the same. The failure to maintain such bond in force shall automatically terminate the sign permit under which such sign was erected and maintained.
A liability insurance policy giving the same protection to the City may be substituted for such bond.
Violations. Violations of this chapter shall be penalized by the imposition of a fine pursuant to Chapter 4 1/2 of the City Code.
Enforcement. The inspector of buildings is authorized to order the repair or removal of any sign and its supporting structure which, in his judgment, is dangerous, in disrepair or which is maintained contrary to this chapter. The owner of the premises shall be responsible for reimbursing the City for all expenses of removing and disposing of any abandoned or dangerous sign or sign in disrepair or maintained contrary to this chapter.
Transfer of ownership. Upon the sale or transfer of ownership of any sign, or business or premises to which a sign relates, the new owner shall file with the inspector of buildings a written application for the transfer of the sign permit for such sign. Such application shall be accompanied by a certification that such sign complies with the provisions of this chapter. Such sign permit shall be transferred by the inspector of buildings, subject to the filing of any necessary bond by the applicant.
Appeals; exceptions. Any person aggrieved by a decision of the inspector of buildings regarding an application for a sign permit or enforcement of this chapter may appeal that decision to the Sign Appeals Board. Any person seeking a sign not in conformity with this chapter may request an exception from the Sign Appeals Board. The Sign Appeals Board shall establish applications for appeals and exceptions, which shall be accompanied by a fee in the amount of $50 (which fee may be waived by the Sign Appeals Board for exceptions to the entities). Appeals and applications for exceptions to the Sign Appeals Board shall be heard at public hearings, and all appellants or applicants shall notify, in writing, abutters of the location of the sign at issue at least 14 days in advance of any hearing in a manner acceptable to the Sign Appeals Board. Appellants or applicants shall also publish notice of the hearing in a manner acceptable to the Sign Appeals Board.
The Sign Appeals Board may, within its discretion, grant exceptions in cases that involve practical difficulties or unnecessary hardships when the Sign Appeals Board finds:
That the alleged hardships and/or practical difficulties are peculiar to the premises, the business or the person requesting the exception and result from conditions which do not exist generally throughout the City; and
That allowing the exception will result in a balance of the competing interests, considering the public benefits intended to be secured by this chapter, the individual hardships that will be suffered by the failure of the Board to grant an exception, the compatibility of the proposed exception with its surroundings, and the rights of others whose property would be affected by the allowance of the exception.
The Zoning Board of Appeals will act as the Sign Appeals Board.
A sign erected prior to the effective date of this chapter which was permitted by previous regulations contained in the Zoning Ordinance or other ordinances of the City but which is not in conformity with the provisions of this chapter shall be considered a nonconforming sign, except that any sign erected prior to the effective date of this chapter and which is in compliance with all sections of this chapter except Section 4.4 may be maintained and shall not be considered a nonconforming sign.
Nonconforming signs may be maintained, except as hereafter provided:
A nonconforming sign shall not be changed to another sign not in conformity with this chapter.
A face replacement that involves any alteration to the face itself constitutes a substantial change.
A nonconforming sign shall be brought into compliance with this chapter if the owner of a premises upon which a nonconforming sign is located shall change the use of the premises, or shall change the location of the sign, the building, or the property line in a manner that renders the sign to be nonconforming.
A nonconforming sign shall not be maintained or reestablished after the activity, business, or usage to which it relates has been discontinued for 30 days or longer.
By January 1, 2009, all nonconforming signs shall be brought into compliance with this chapter or shall, upon application, be granted an exception by the Zoning Board of Appeals under the standards set forth in Section 6.7.