City of Fredericksburg, VA
County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents

72-59.1 Purpose and intent.

The purpose and intent of this section is to establish reasonable regulations as to the size, height, area, bulk, location, erection, construction, reconstruction, alteration, repair, maintenance, razing or removal of signs and the structures to which they are affixed, which are visible from the public right-of-way. A sign placed on land or on a building for the purpose of identification, protection or advertising a use conducted therein shall be deemed to be an integral part of the land or building. City Council has adopted these regulations in order to achieve all of the following community goals and objectives:
A. 
Protect the health, safety and welfare of the public.
B. 
Safeguard the public use and nature of the streets and sidewalks by reducing hazards that may be caused by signs overhanging or projecting over public rights-of-way.
C. 
Enhance the physical appearance of the City and preserve the scenic and natural beauty of certain areas by the requirement of high professional standards in sign design and display.
D. 
Reduce sign or advertising distraction and obstructions that may impede fire-fighting efforts or impair a driver's ability to see pedestrians, obstacles or other vehicles or to read traffic signs.
E. 
Promote the economic growth of the City by creating a community image that is conducive to attracting new business and industrial development.
F. 
Promote the safety of persons and property by requiring that signs not create a hazard due to collapse, fire, decay or abandonment.
G. 
Promote reasonable legibility and effectiveness of signs and prevent their over-concentration, improper placement and excessive height, bulk, density and area.

72-59.2 General regulations.

A. 
Any sign displayed in the City of Fredericksburg shall comply with:
(1) 
All provisions of this chapter;
(2) 
All applicable provisions of the Building Code and all amendments thereto;
(3) 
All state and federal laws and regulations pertaining to the display of signage.
B. 
No sign, unless herein exempted, shall be erected, constructed, posted, painted, altered, or relocated except as provided in this section and until a sign permit has been issued.
C. 
Before a sign permit is issued, an application for a certificate of zoning use or certificate of appropriateness, as applicable, must be approved. All electrically illuminated signs shall require a separate electrical permit from the Building and Development Services Department.

72-59.3 Exemptions.

The following signs shall not require a sign permit:
A. 
Signs of a duly constituted governmental body, such as, but not limited to, traffic, warning, directional, street, regulatory or governmental which are directly related to the health, safety, convenience or welfare of the community.
B. 
Commemorative plaques and historical markers erected by a recognized historical agency or government body.
C. 
Flags of the Commonwealth of Virginia, United States of America and any other flag of a state or nation flown for noncommercial purposes.
D. 
Small signs which display or post address numbers.
E. 
Seasonal displays and decorations which do not advertise a product or service.
F. 
Temporary signs for official notices.
G. 
One "Private Property," "No Trespassing" or "Beware of Dog" sign, not exceeding 1 1/2 square feet in area, but only where such warning is justifiable.
H. 
Normal maintenance and repair of a conforming sign.
I. 
Change of advertised copy on a sign or marquee designed and approved for replaceable copy.
J. 
Traffic control signs as deemed necessary and approved by the Department of Public Works or the Virginia Department of Transportation.
K. 
One temporary real estate sign advertising property for sale, rent, lease, build-to-suit, or sign announcing future construction. Such sign shall:
(1) 
Not exceed six square feet in area in any R District or 32 square feet in area in any other district;
(2) 
Shall be removed within one week of occupancy of the property; and
(3) 
Not exceed six feet in height.
L. 
Political campaign signs on private property. Campaign signs shall not be placed on utility poles, traffic control signs or trees or within public rights-of-way. Campaign signs shall be removed no later than 30 days after the election.
M. 
Signs displayed for the direction or convenience of the public, including signs which identify restrooms, location of public telephones, handicapped parking spaces, public entrances, freight entrances or the like provided such signs do not exceed a total surface area of three square feet per sign on any lot or parcel.
N. 
Signs displayed on a truck, bus, or other vehicle while in use in the normal conduct of business. This article shall not be interpreted to permit the parking of, for display purposes, a vehicle to which a sign is attached or the use of such a vehicle as a portable sign.
O. 
Menu/daily special signs, not exceeding four square feet in size, provided the sign is attached to a building facade, unless authorized by the Zoning Administrator.
P. 
Wall or ground signs in a private parking lot to identify entrances, exits and divisions of the lot into sections and to control vehicular and pedestrian traffic in the lot, provided each sign does not exceed four square feet in area.
Q. 
Murals, although requirements of an overlay district zoning may apply.
R. 
Signs erected by a department of the governmental body, such as, but not limited to, event advertising, directional, which are directly related to community events being hosted in the City.
S. 
Open/closed signs, or similar, not exceeding four square feet provided that the sign is located inside the structure.

72-59.4 Prohibited signs.

All signs or sign structures which are not specifically exempted or permitted as defined in this section are prohibited. Signs prohibited include, but are not limited to, the following:
A. 
Any sign which violates any provision of law or code of the Commonwealth of Virginia or of the United States.
B. 
Any sign which obstructs a door, fire escape or building opening intended for light, air or access to a building.
C. 
Any sign, pennant, streamer, large floating or stationary balloon intended to attract attention regardless of whether or not the sign has a written message of which all or any part is in motion by any means, including fluttering, rotating or other moving signs set forth in motion by movement of the atmosphere.
D. 
Any sign displaying flashing or intermittent lights or lights changing degrees of intensity. A variable message sign may be allowed when message changes alternate on not less than eight-second cycles and when in the judgement of the Development Administrator the alternating message sign does not constitute a public safety or traffic hazard. Variable message signs shall not be permitted in any historic district.
E. 
Any permanent lighting either by exposed tubing or strings of lights, either outlining any part of a building or affixed to any ornamental feature thereof.
F. 
Any sign that obscures a sign displayed by public authority for the purpose of giving traffic instructions or direction or other public information.
G. 
Any sign that uses the word "stop," "danger," "slow," "caution," "yield," or "go" or otherwise presents or implies the need or requirement of stopping or caution or the existence of danger, or which is likely to be confused with any sign displayed by public authority.
H. 
Signs that are structurally unsafe.
I. 
Portable signs unless specifically permitted in this section.
J. 
Sound-producing signs.
K. 
Any sign displayed on a stationary or moving motor vehicle or trailer when the vehicle or trailer is used primarily for the purpose of and serving the function of a portable sign, except when such vehicle or trailer is parked so as to not be parked adjacent to a public road or is loading or unloading.
L. 
Any sign representing or depicting specified sexual activities or specified anatomical areas or sexually oriented goods. Any sign containing obscene text or pictures as defined by the Code of Virginia.
M. 
Outdoor advertising signs.
N. 
Roof signs.
O. 
Costumed persons, sign spinners and sails.
P. 
Any sign or illumination that causes any direct glare into or upon any building other than the building to which the sign is located.
Q. 
Any sign, except official notices, which is nailed, tacked, posted or in any other manner attached to any pipe or utility pole, whether on public or private property of any description, or to any tree.
R. 
Any sign attached to a chimney, tower, tank or structure of like kind which extends above the zoning district height limits.

72-59.5 Application, fee, expiration and special exceptions.

A. 
Applications for a sign permit may be obtained from the office of the Development Administrator.
B. 
Any property owner or tenant of a parcel of land upon which a sign is to be displayed, or any authorized agent of such owner or tenant may apply for a sign permit. If a tenant is an applicant, the property owner or owner's agent shall sign the application.
C. 
Every sign permit application shall include the square footage, height and location of all existing signs on the property, and the area, size, height, structure, design, location, lighting, and materials for the proposed signs. In addition, the Development Administrator may require that the application contain any other information deemed necessary to ensure compliance with, or effectively administer, these regulations.
D. 
All applications for a sign permit in a district requiring a master sign plan shall be in accord with the master sign plan approved for that district.
E. 
A nonrefundable sign permit fee, established by the City Council, is due and payable with the filing of a sign permit application. More than one sign on one building or group of buildings located on the same parcel of land may be included on one application provided that all such signs be applied for at one time.
F. 
After all applicable fees have been paid and a sign permit approved, the applicant may install and display approved signage. Once installed, the Development Administrator may inspect the sign(s) for conformance with the approved sign permit and this section.
G. 
Any sign permit issued shall be null and void if any sign for which the permit was issued is not installed in accordance with the permit, nor all fees paid, within six months of the date the permit was approved.
H. 
Within 60 days after the occupant of a lot or building vacates the premises, the property owner shall remove all signs of or relating to that occupant from the premises. Any new or replacement sign shall be subject to § 72-59.2B.

72-59.6 Sign regulations by zoning district.

The following regulations shall apply to all signs for which a permit is required by the provisions of this section:
A. 
All districts. The following regulations apply to signs permitted in all districts:
(1) 
Temporary signs not exceeding 50% of the aggregate area of sign display allowed on any privately owned site in that district shall be permitted for the purpose of announcing a campaign, drive or event of a civic, philanthropic, fraternal, religious, or educational organization. No such sign shall be displayed in any R Zoning District except on the immediate site of the event to which it pertains. Such sign may be maintained for a period not to exceed one month and shall be removed within five days after the event to which it pertains.
(2) 
One informational sign or bulletin board customarily incidental to places of worship, libraries, museums, social clubs or societies shall be permitted per parcel, provided such a sign or bulletin board is wall mounted, is not projecting and does not exceed 15 square feet of sign area.
(3) 
The location of all freestanding signs, where permitted, in no instance may project beyond any property line nor be within two feet of the curb line.
B. 
Residential districts. In addition to other applicable regulations presented in this section, the following regulations shall apply to signs in R Districts or to residential uses in mixed use developments:
(1) 
In R-2, R-4, R-8, one sign not to exceed two square feet for each dwelling unit shall be permitted. Such sign shall indicate only the name and address of the occupant. Home occupations in these districts shall not be permitted additional signage of any type, except that bed and breakfast establishments may install an identifying sign not to exceed four square feet.
(2) 
In R-12, R-16 and R-30, no more than two signs per building shall be permitted totaling 12 square feet per building.
(3) 
Nonresidential uses permitted in the district may be permitted a low-profile monument type sign. No such sign, including supports, shall extend more than five feet above existing grade level, be located closer than five feet to any property line, and have an area greater than 20 square feet.
(4) 
No sign shall project beyond a property or right of way line.
(5) 
All building-mounted signs shall be flush against the building and shall not project above the roofline.
(6) 
Sign illumination shall be only by direct white lighting and shall illuminate only the face of the sign.
(7) 
Freestanding identification signs, restricted to four square feet, may be used to identify community features, such as a community center, picnic area or pool facility.
(8) 
One on-site real estate sign, not to exceed 32 square feet and a height of eight feet, advertising a residential community, provided such sign shall be removed when all of the dwelling units in the residential community have been sold.
(9) 
One wall or ground sign giving the place name of an established neighborhood, community or subdivision development shall be permitted for each major entrance of the neighborhood. When the entrance to such neighborhood, community or subdivision development is so designed as to require two ground signs for the sake of symmetry, two signs may be permitted. Each permitted sign shall not exceed 60 square feet, an overall height of eight feet and such signs shall be 10 feet from any lot line.
[Amended 2-11-2014 by Ord. No. 14-01]
C. 
Commercial and industrial districts. In addition to other applicable regulations, the following regulations shall apply to all signs in the C and I Districts and for commercial uses in mixed-use developments:
(1) 
Building-mounted signs:
Table 72-59.6C(1): Building-Mounted Signs
Total maximum area
1.5 square feet for each linear foot of building frontage (total sign area shall not exceed 200 square feet)
Maximum projection
42 inches from the wall
Minimum clearance for signs projecting more than 6 inches:
Above vehicular travelways
8 feet
Above vehicular travelways
15 feet
(a) 
Signs on awnings, canopies, marquees, or umbrellas shall be included in building-mounted sign area computation.
(b) 
Signs inside windows shall not be included in Building Mounted sign area computation.
(c) 
Downtown business directory signs. In addition to the signage allowed above, business directory signs may be located in the Commercial Downtown District to direct customers to offices, shops, and other uses in the Commercial Downtown District not located on Caroline Street. The sign may be placed on a wall of a building on Caroline Street, if permitted by the property owner. Such signs shall be mounted flush to the wall, providing information on the location of offices, shops or other uses. These signs shall only identify businesses by name and address. The maximum sign area shall be limited to 15 square feet.
(2) 
Freestanding signs.
Table 72-59.6C(2): Freestanding Signs
Maximum Number
Zoning Districts
CT
CD
CSC
CH
I-1
I-2
Per parcel
1
1
N/A
1
1
1
Per shopping center
N/A
N/A
1
N/A
N/A
N/A
Per gasoline sales business for price
N/A
1
1
1
1
N/A
Maximum Sign Area
For all signs on parcels on public streets with a right-of-way of more than 70 feet
40
40
100
100
100
100
For signs on parcels on public streets with a right-of-way of 70 feet or less
30
30
75
75
75
75
For gasoline price signs
N/A
25
25
25
25
N/A
Maximum Height (feet)
5
5
20
20
20
20
(a) 
Illumination.
[1] 
Ground-placed lights of any technology may be installed, directed solely at the sign in a manner that does not illuminate surrounding areas; or
[2] 
Signs may be illuminated by any technology with a brightness not exceeding the maximum illumination levels shown on Table 72-58.2D; or
[3] 
Not more than 40% of permitted sign area shall use light emitting diodes (LED) illumination.
[4] 
Sign illumination shall be turned off within one hour after the closing of the business and shall be turned on no sooner than one hour before the business opens.
(b) 
Design standards.
[1] 
Signs in the CT and CD Zoning Districts shall be low-profile, monument type;
[2] 
Signs shall be designed with material, colors, and lettering that are compatible and harmonized with the main building on the site;
[3] 
Signs shall be located in a manner that shall not cause a pedestrian or vehicular traffic hazard;
[4] 
Signs shall convey only on-site business information and/or the name of the shopping center and the management company;
[5] 
The ground area around the base of signs shall be landscaped with groundcover, shrubs and/or plants. The landscaping plan required by this section shall be depicted on or with the sign permit application;
[6] 
Signs shall be set back a distance equal to their height from any property or right-of-way line; and
[7] 
Signs shall be setback a distance equal to twice their height from any existing freestanding sign.
(c) 
Accessory signs.
[1] 
One detached order board and one preview board are permitted for each stacking lane for businesses with drive-through facilities. Order boards and preview boards shall not be included in calculating the number of freestanding signs or in calculating the total aggregate sign area. Such signs must be located so that they are not legible from off the property. Order boards are limited to 30 square feet in area and six feet in height. Preview boards are limited to 15 square feet in area and six feet in height.
[2] 
Two construction signs, not to exceed 32 square feet and a height of six feet, advertising the use to be made of a commercial building or structure and the businesses and firms developing the site or structure. Such sign may be installed immediately prior to construction and shall be removed upon occupancy of the building or structure.
(d) 
Industrial park directory and off-premise signs. In addition to the signage allowed above, industrial park directory signs may be located in the I-1 and I-2 Districts. One freestanding sign shall be permitted identifying the name of the industrial park and its tenants. Such sign shall not exceed 100 square feet in area and 20 feet in height. In addition, three or more neighboring businesses in the I-1 and I-2 Zoning Districts that do not have visibility from an adjacent arterial or collector road, may jointly erect a free standing sign off-site. Such signs shall not exceed 100 square feet in area and 10 feet in height. Such sign shall be located within 1,000 feet from the business being advertised.
(3) 
Except as otherwise specifically provided in this section, no business sign shall be allowed except upon that portion of a building or site that is owned or leased and actually occupied by the business identified by such sign.
D. 
Planned development districts. In addition to other applicable regulations presented in this section, a sign design package shall be used for all signs in a PD-C, PD-MU, PD-MC or PD-R District that will have multiple land uses and/or multiple development phases.
(1) 
A sign design package will graphically present the size, shape and format for each type of sign for the project. All proposed sign formats will be dimensioned. The number of signs, colors, type fonts, sign size, type of lighting and construction materials to be used will be specified for all proposed signs. The sign design package will:
(a) 
Specify the proposed colors of project sign formats, although individual purchasers or lessees of project property may use their own corporate colors for individual names and corporate logos within the sign size and color formats specified in the signage design package.
(b) 
Specify the type fonts and the height of the lettering to be permitted on the project's various signs, although individual purchasers or lessees of project property will be able to use their own corporate type fonts for corporate names and corporate logos where such usage is permitted.
(c) 
Specify the types of materials proposed for construction or use on the project's various signs. Sign poles, supports, panels, attachments, lettering and visible base materials must be identified. Individual purchasers or lessees of project property may select sign materials for their individual signs where the package so allows.
(2) 
Upon approval of the sign design package by the Development Administrator, all new signs within the boundaries of the PD-C, PD-MU or PD-R project will adhere to the standards of the approved signage design package.
(3) 
Permitted types of signs within a sign design package:
(a) 
Building-mounted identification signs.
(b) 
Canopy signs.
(c) 
Directional signs.
(d) 
Entrance feature, identification, or informational signs.
[Amended 5-13-2014 by Ord. No. 14-17]
(e) 
Freestanding identification signs.
(f) 
Street banners and seasonal displays. Seasonal displays depicting seasonal, logo, holiday, special events, graphic designs or color panels may be placed on parking area light poles. Banner sizes are limited to a maximum of 10 square feet. The owner/installer is responsible for insuring the structural integrity of the supporting poles before seasonal displays are installed.
(g) 
Theater signs advertising the acts or features to be given in a theater may be displayed on permanent frames erected on the theater building; provided that each frame does not exceed 20 square feet.
(h) 
Tube-illuminated signs (in retail establishments only): One such sign per retail establishment is allowed if displayed inside the window and the size is restricted to a maximum of four square feet in size.
(4) 
Sign design package approval includes the following steps:
(a) 
An applicant must submit a sign design package for approval by the Development Administrator with either the final site design for the first phase of development or prior to construction of the first phase of lot or site development.
(b) 
The Development Administrator will review the proposed sign design package within 60 days. The package may be returned to the applicant for changes or modifications. A changed or modified package that addresses departmental comments and is resubmitted shall be approved or denied within 45 days. In the event the applicant disagrees with the decision of the Development Administrator regarding the sign package, the applicant may file an appeal to the BZA in accordance with this chapter.
(c) 
Acceptance of the sign design package by the Development Administrator does not exempt the applicant from obtaining sign permits in accordance with this section.
(d) 
Minor amendments or additions to an approved sign design package may be approved by the Development Administrator.
(e) 
Total redesign of an approved sign design package shall not be considered a minor amendment but shall be treated as a new application.
(5) 
Additional sign regulations for PDC Districts.
(a) 
PDC development projects which are adjacent to an interstate highway, contain 200 acres or more, and contain 420,000 square feet of building floor area will be permitted the following signs:
[1] 
A freestanding project sign not to exceed 1,000 square feet in sign panel area (except for public or jurisdictional signage) or 175 feet in height, which project sign may be illuminated.
[2] 
A monument sign at a major entrance 52 feet in width. Such sign will not exceed 60 feet in height (excluding architectural treatments).
[3] 
An identifying sign panel for the project not to exceed 200 square feet.
[4] 
Identifying panels for individual users not to exceed 130 square feet each. Such panels will not exceed 30 in number.
[5] 
A monument project identification sign at each existing major intersection at the boundary of the parcel, not to exceed 15 feet in height and 250 square feet in sign area.
(b) 
Individual users within the PD-C may be permitted the following signs:
[1] 
Building signs equal to one square foot for each linear foot of building circumference, but not to exceed 200 square feet of sign face per building side on not more than three sides per building.
[2] 
A monument sign, not to exceed 10 feet in height and 100 square feet of sign area, except that a monument sign identifying more than one user may have a maximum of 150 square feet of sign area.
[3] 
A monument sign, not to exceed 10 feet in height and 100 square feet of sign area, identifying a single user located off-premises from the site of the sign it identifies, provided the user is located on a site or lot of at least 100,000 square feet that does not abut a four-lane major thoroughfare, and the sign is located within 300 feet of the subject lot.
(6) 
Additional sign regulations for PD-MU, PD-MC and PD-R Districts:
(a) 
Commercial, industrial, or retail properties housing one or more tenants may not exceed 1.5 square feet of sign area for each linear foot of building frontage. No total sign area, including the area of any freestanding sign, may exceed 200 square feet in area.
(b) 
Freestanding signs for commercial, industrial, or retail properties may not exceed 15 feet in height.
E. 
Historic districts. In addition to other applicable regulations presented in this section, all signs to be located in the Old and Historic Fredericksburg District shall be approved by the Architectural Review Board in accordance with the provisions of the HFD Overlay District. Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, the Architectural Review Board, in approving a sign, may further regulate such sign with respect to area, height, placement, materials, color, lighting, graphics, lettering or architectural styling, consistent with the guidelines applicable to its decisions.
F. 
Gateway Overlay Districts. In addition to other applicable regulations presented in this section, all signs to be located in Gateway Overlay Districts shall be approved by the Development Administrator in accordance with the provisions of this overlay district. Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, the Development Administrator, in approving a sign, may further regulate such sign with respect to area, height, placement, materials, color, lighting, graphics, lettering or architectural styling, consistent with the guidelines applicable to his/her decisions.
Figure 72-59.6. Sign Types
072-5 Fig 72-59.6.tif

72-59.7 Temporary signs.

Temporary signs may be allowed by an approved temporary sign permit, subject to the following provisions:
A. 
Banners with a maximum size of 40 square feet may advertise special promotions, hiring information, community events or new businesses, and shall not solely advertise a business name and/or logo.
B. 
Temporary sign permits shall not be issued to the same applicant or business more than four times in any calendar year; each temporary sign permit shall be separated by a period of not less than 30 days.
C. 
Applications for temporary signs must be submitted at least 10 business days prior to the installation of sign. Such application shall be on an application form prescribed by the Development Administrator and shall indicate the size, area, proposed location and manner of fastening of the temporary sign. Any banner installed without prior approval of the Development Administrator shall be removed immediately upon notification by the Planning Department and no other temporary sign shall be displayed on the property by the same business or organization for 90 days.
D. 
A maximum of one temporary sign may be displayed at a time.
E. 
Each permitted temporary sign may be displayed a maximum of 30 consecutive days.
F. 
Temporary signs shall be located on the same property as the sponsoring business or organization.
G. 
Temporary signs must be building mounted, shall be maintained in good, safe condition and be securely affixed to the building. Temporary signs shall not be illuminated.
H. 
No temporary or permanent A-frame, sandwich board or portable roadside signs shall be permitted on private property in any zoning district.

72-59.8 Visibility from interstate and federal aid highways.

The Code of Virginia, § 33.1-351 et seq., shall be applicable in the regulation of signs visible from interstate and federal aid primary highways within the City of Fredericksburg.