Town of Johnston, RI
Providence County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[Amended 6-9-1997 by Ord. No. 998; 5-13-2019 by Ord. No. 2019-8]
The purpose of these provisions is to enhance the appearance of the Town by lessening the haphazard placement and clutter of signs, as well as to provide a business-friendly climate that is compatible with the surrounding environment. Signs perform important functions for way-finding, communicating messages, and providing information about goods and services; however, if not properly regulated, signs may have detrimental impacts on the visual and perceptual environment. Therefore, the Town regulates signs in order to:
A. 
Promote the safety, comfort, and well-being of the users of streets, roads, and highways;
B. 
Reduce distractions and obstructions from signs which would adversely affect traffic safety, and alleviate hazards caused by signs projecting over or encroaching upon public ways;
C. 
Discourage excessive visual competition in signage and ensure that signs aid orientation; and,
D. 
Enhance municipal character by encouraging new and replacement signage which is creative and distinctive, compatible with the surroundings, appropriate to the type of activity to which it pertains, and, appropriately sized in its context so as to be easily legible.
The following definitions supplement those words defined in § 340-4 of this chapter and as used in this section have the following meanings:
ANIMATED SIGN
Any sign that uses movement, the visual impression of movement, sound or change of lighting to depict action or create a special effect and/or scene. Such signs include, but are not limited to, those that give the impression of flashing, blinking, oscillating, expanding, or contracting.
AWNING/CANOPY SIGN
Any sign that is part of or attached to an awning, canopy, or other fabric, plastic, or structural protective covering of a door, an entrance, a window, or an outdoor service area. The areas of an awning sign/canopy sign will be counted as part of the area allowed for wall signs.
BANNER
A sign made of nonrigid material hanging from or otherwise attached to a building, structure or pole.
BILLBOARD
Any notice or advertisement, pictorial or otherwise, used as an outdoor display not related to the use of the lot upon which the billboard is located.
BULLETIN BOARD
A board or wall area on which bulletins, notices, or displays are temporarily posted. Such signs shall be for public, charitable, or religious purposes, and shall be located upon the premises of said institutions.
CONSTRUCTION SIGN
Any sign whose purpose is to display the name of the contractor and/or subcontractors employed on a work site, and/or the consultants and/or financial institutions participating in the project. Such signs shall be temporary in nature and shall be removed upon completion of the project.
CREDIT CARD SIGN
A sign identifying, by name or symbol, one or more credit cards which are accepted by an establishment.
DIRECTIONAL SIGN
An on-premises sign that directs vehicles and/or pedestrians onto, around, and/or off a property, and which may contain the name or logo of an establishment, but not advertising copy.
DIRECTORY SIGN
A sign identifying two or more persons or establishments occupying a structure.
ELECTRONIC MESSAGE CENTER
Any sign that utilizes computer-generated messages or some other electronic means of changing copy. These signs include displays using incandescent lamps, LEDs, LCDs, or a flipper matrix. The images and messages displayed must be static (not change for at least 25 seconds), and the transition from one static display to another must be instantaneous to the human eye without having any transition effects. Transition effects include wipes, fades, or other special effects.
FREESTANDING (PYLON) SIGN
A sign supported by one or more poles, columns, or braces or other supporting devices placed in or on the ground and not attached to any building.
GOVERNMENT SIGN
All signs erected by or on behalf of the federal, state or local government; traffic controls; legal notices; or other signs required by law, including all signs erected under the authority of the Town of Johnston on Town owned or controlled land.
HISTORICAL LANDMARK SIGN
A sign that is made a permanent and integral part of a building, to identify a property of historic significance by name, date of erection, and so forth.
ILLUMINATED SIGN, EXTERNAL
A sign illuminated by a separate light fixture that casts light directly on the face of the sign.
ILLUMINATED SIGN, INTERNAL
A sign lighted directly or indirectly by a light fixture located within the sign structure and designed to project light against the surface on which the sign lettering or graphics are located.
INCIDENTAL SIGN
A sign, generally informational, that has a purpose secondary to the use of the lot on which it is located, such as "no parking," "private driveway," "loading zone," "no trespassing," and other similar directives. No sign having a commercial message or a logo shall be considered incidental.
LOGO
A distinctive emblem, symbol or insignia identifying a particular product, service, business, activity, or entity.
MARQUEE SIGN
Any sign attached to, in any manner, or made part of a permanent roof-like structure projecting beyond a building which is used as a theater. Such signs shall not extend beyond or be attached to the underside of the overhang.
MEMU BOARD
A sign mounted on a structure erected for that purpose, not attached to any building, which is used for the listing of available menu items at an establishment with a drive-through window.
MONUMENT SIGN
Any freestanding sign having a support structure that is a solid-appearing base constructed of permanent materials such as concrete block, stone, or brick and is in contact with or within one foot of the ground.
OFF-PREMISES SIGN
Any sign, including but not limited to billboards, advertising or calling attention to an activity, product, or service not available within a building or upon the parcel of land where the sign is located. Except that, for the purpose of this article, subdivision identification, political, government, and temporary signs shall not be deemed off-premises signs.
OPEN SPACE IDENTIFICATION SIGN
Any sign used to identify entrances to parks and open space. Such signs may include information relating to features and facilities, interpretive signs informing visitors about what they may see or experience, maps, and so forth.
POLITICAL SIGN
A sign which advertises a candidate or candidates for public elective office, a political party, or promotes a position on a ballot question or public issue.
PORTABLE SIGN
Any sign not permanently affixed to the ground or to a building; any sign attached to or displayed on a vehicle that is used for the expressed purpose of advertising a business establishment, product, service, or entertainment, when that vehicle is so parked as to attract the attention of the motoring or pedestrian traffic; any sign originally designed and intended to be placed and used on a temporary basis.
PROJECTING SIGN
A sign with no more than two faces attached to a building wall which extends more than 15 inches from the face of the wall.
REAL ESTATE SIGN
Any temporary sign advertising the real estate upon which the sign is located as being for rent, lease, or sale.
ROOF SIGN
A sign which is constructed and maintained on the roof of a building or on the building wall in such a way that it extends beyond the roof line.
SUBDIVISION IDENTIFICATION SIGN
A sign at the entrance of a single integrated development consisting of two or more lots or a multifamily housing development, which advertises or identifies, for example, the name of a residential, commercial, or industrial subdivision or development, the address and/or the commercial or industrial occupant of the premises, and/or directional and parking instructions with respect to the development.
TEMPORARY SIGN
Any sign, including a portable sign, which is used for a limited time and is not permanently installed or erected.
VEHICLE SIGN
Any sign on or affixed to an inoperative bus, car, boat, trailer, truck or other motorized vehicle, that is not used in the activities of the business, that is parked on public or private property with the primary purpose of providing advertisement of products, or that is directing people to a business or activity located on the same or nearby premises.
WALL SIGN
Any sign attached parallel to and within 10 inches of a wall, painted on the wall surface, or erected and confined within the limits of an outside wall of any building. Signs installed on first-story mansard roof or mansard facades shall be considered wall signs.
WINDOW SIGNS
Any sign which is painted on a window pane, mounted onto a window pane, or hung directly (within 24 inches of the glass) inside the window.
A. 
Illumination standards for all signs:
(1) 
The light source for all externally illuminated signs shall be effectively shielded to prevent beams or rays from being directed at any roadway or abutting residential property.
(2) 
No lights or lighting effects shall be used on any sign if the Building Official deems such light or lighting effect to pose a conflict with those used in public safety or traffic control and thereby create a hazard to the operation of motor vehicles.
(3) 
No sign may be placed, constructed or erected if the Building Official deems the illumination to constitute a hazard to pedestrian or vehicular traffic because of intensity or direction of illumination.
(4) 
All illuminated signs shall be turned off one hour after business closing and shall not turn on again until one hour prior to business reopening.
B. 
Number of signs:
(1) 
Freestanding sign.
(a) 
Only one freestanding pylon or monument sign per lot regardless of the number of tenants.
(b) 
Where a lot contains the required minimum frontage along more than one street, a second freestanding pylon or monument sign is permitted.
(2) 
Wall sign.
(a) 
There may be one wall sign, canopy sign or projecting sign affixed to the exterior of a building for each occupancy therein.
(b) 
Where one establishment is more than 75,000 square feet in gross leasable floor area, there may be one or more wall-mounted signs for that establishment provided that the total square footage of such signs does not exceed the total amount of signage permitted.
C. 
Placement standards:
(1) 
Signs shall not obstruct any door, window, or fire escape.
(2) 
Except as otherwise provided herein, the placement of signs is not subject to yard setback regulations. No sign shall constitute a hazard to pedestrian or vehicular traffic such as by obstructing sight lines or by blocking free ingress to or egress from a required door, window, fire escape or other required exit way element.
(3) 
Signs, if illuminated, shall be so arranged as to reflect light away from adjoining properties and/or streets, and shall not be located within 25 feet of any residential district boundary line.
(4) 
Signs shall not overhang the public right-of-way nor interfere with adjoining properties or establishments.
D. 
Sign area computations:
(1) 
Sign area for single-faced signs shall be computed by measuring in square feet, the entire area within a square, rectangle, circle, triangle or any other polygon enclosing the extreme limits of graphic, writing or similar representation, emblem or any fixture of 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. The area of supporting framework (for example brackets, posts, etc.) shall not be included in the area if such framework is not included in the display.
(2) 
When a sign has two or more faces, each side may contain the maximum sign area permitted (as computed above), provided the sides are no further than two feet from each other.
(3) 
When calculating the total square footage of wall-mounted signage in a development of two or more buildings, all wall signs, awning or canopy signs and projecting signs for each establishment in the development shall be included in the total amount of permitted signage. The calculated number shall not exceed the amount of square feet of wall signs permitted.
E. 
Height and setback computations:
(1) 
The height of any freestanding sign shall be measured from its base at grade to the highest point of the sign. Grade shall be defined as the naturally existing topography of the ground. Any filling or mounding (such as a berm) above the naturally occurring grade to artificially increase the height of a sign shall be counted towards the height of the sign.
(2) 
The setback of any sign shall be measured from the edge of the sign that is closest to the property line.
(3) 
A freestanding sign shall be set back a minimum of five feet from all property lines.
F. 
No sign shall emit any sound.
G. 
No sign shall hereafter be created, erected, installed or altered except in conformance with this article and upon receipt of a building permit.
H. 
Continuance: Any sign that advertises businesses or activities that have not been carried on at the premises for two consecutive years shall be deemed to be abandoned. An abandoned sign shall be considered nonconforming and therefore prohibited and shall be removed by the owner of the premises. Such obsolete signs shall be removed within 30 days after the date they become obsolete.
I. 
Maintenance. All signs, banners, pennants, awnings, canopies and other permitted advertising devices must be kept clean, neatly painted, free from all hazards and must be properly maintained in safe condition, not faded or tattered, and shall be securely fastened at all corners and ends. If a sign is hazardous or obsolete, the Building Inspector or Zoning Enforcement Officer shall give written notice to the owner of the sign and to the owner of the land upon which the sign is erected directing that the sign be brought into conformance or removed within 30 days from the date of said notice.
J. 
Replacement. Any sign replacing a preexisting nonconforming sign shall conform with the provisions of this article and the preexisting nonconforming sign shall be removed.
K. 
Alteration. The sign faces of any preexisting nonconforming signs may be altered either to update the sign content or to reflect new information, provided that such alteration shall not result in any change in the sign's size, extent, location, or illumination.
The signs described below are permitted in all zoning districts:
A. 
Signs identifying charitable, nonprofit, or private educational facilities shall be permitted as follows:
(1) 
Wall signs not exceeding 20 square feet in area.
(2) 
Off-site directional signs not exceeding two square feet in area per side of sign, nor eight feet in height.
(a) 
Temporary on- or off-premises freestanding signs or wall signs advertising public social events, not exceeding 32 square feet in area per side of sign, nor six feet in height, and limited to one sign per parcel. The display of said temporary signs shall be limited to 21 days duration, shall be removed within three days after the final day of the event, and shall not be permitted more than four times in a calendar year.
(b) 
A permit shall be obtained for each time a temporary sign is desired and shall not be extended.
(c) 
A cash bond of $50 shall be posted with the Building Inspector for each temporary sign. This sum will be returned upon removal of the temporary sign. If the sign is not removed when the permit expires, the Building Inspector or Zoning Enforcement Officer shall cause the sign to be removed and disposed of and the cash bond shall be forfeited to the Town's general fund to help defray the cost of removal.
B. 
Directional signs.
C. 
Real estate signs. On-premises, temporary, nonilluminated, freestanding or wall signs not exceeding nine square feet in area, nor six feet in height, and limited to two signs per parcel. Said signs shall be maintained in sound condition and shall be removed within 10 days of the lease, sale or rental of the property to which they are related.
D. 
Government signs.
E. 
Political signs. Political signs of a temporary nature, not located on utility poles, public property or within any right-of-way.
F. 
Temporary construction signs. Not exceeding 32 square feet in area per side of sign nor eight feet in height and limited to two signs per project site. Said signs shall be set back a minimum of five feet from all property lines and shall be removed immediately upon completion of the work to which they are related. All temporary construction signs which are located within a road right-of-way shall conform with the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices.
G. 
Incidental signs.
H. 
Clocks, thermostats and barber poles displaying no advertising.
I. 
Landmark signs or commemorative tablets when made a permanent and integral part of a building.
J. 
Temporary holiday decorations for a period of up to 60 days per year.
The signs described below are prohibited in all zoning districts:
A. 
All billboards, roof signs, A-frame signs and portable signs, strobe lights, light bulb strings, steamers, spinners and devices of a similar nature, and all moving, flashing, rotating or blinking signs.
B. 
The use of fencing for advertising purposes.
C. 
All signs displaying any explicit figures or words concerning specified anatomical areas or sexual activities.
The signs described below are permitted in all residential zoning districts. Exterior signs shall not be illuminated.
A. 
Banners and pennant strings. Limited to a maximum of two banners or pennant strings per establishment for a period of up to six months in any calendar year, where the predominant, legally permitted use of said premise is nonresidential. The occupants of any residential portion of a property upon which a banner or pennant string is located, and the occupants of any abutting residential property, may object in writing to that banner. Upon receipt of said written objection, the Zoning Officer shall order the removal of the objectionable banner or pennant string, and the owner may appeal to the Zoning Board of Review for relief of the removal order.
B. 
Freestanding signs. Indicating the name of the owners or occupants, or identifying a permitted nonresidential use, not exceeding two square feet in area, nor five feet in height, and limited to one sign per parcel.
C. 
A freestanding subdivision identification sign. Up to 12 square feet in area and up to eight feet in height and limited to two signs.
D. 
Wall signs. Identifying a permitted nonresidential use, not exceeding nine square feet in area, and limited to one sign per establishment.
Signs may be wall-mounted, freestanding, projecting, a flag or banner. All signs shall conform to the following:
A. 
Awning or canopy signs may be up to 36 square feet per establishment.
B. 
Banners are limited to a maximum of two banners per establishment for a period of up to six months in any calendar year.
C. 
Credit card signs shall not exceed one square foot in aggregate area per establishment and shall not be illuminated.
D. 
Directory signs shall not exceed six square feet in aggregate area per building and shall only identify permitted uses.
E. 
Information flags shall be limited to one per establishment containing the word "Open" and/or the business's logo, not exceeding 15 square feet in area.
F. 
Pennant strings shall be limited to two per establishment.
G. 
Projecting signs may be up to 12 square feet in area, projecting up to four feet from the building wall, with an unobstructed clearance to a height of 10 feet above the ground, and limited to one sign per establishment.
H. 
Wall and freestanding signs shall conform to the following standards:
(1) 
Building frontage is the length of the building on the side where the main door to the establishment(s) is located.
(2) 
When a parcel has two or more principal buildings, the total sign area for each building is calculated based on the building frontage of each building.
(3) 
For any drive-in business that has a booth for employees only with no public access, including a gas station, the maximum area of building signs shall be one square foot of sign for every linear foot of street frontage. On a corner lot, only one street frontage shall be used to calculate the maximum sign area.
Zone
Freestanding Sign
Building Signs
Total Sign Area
(square feet)
Sign Height
(feet)
Total Sign Area on a Building
(square feet)
B1
36
12
1.0 for every linear foot of building frontage
B2: buildings up to 25,000 square feet
50
15
1.0 for every linear foot of building frontage
B2: buildings 25,001 to 50,000 square feet
75
18
1.5 for every linear foot of building frontage
B2: buildings 50,001 to 75,000 square feet
100
20
2.0 for every linear foot of building frontage
B2: buildings 75,001 square feet and up
150
25
2.5 for every linear foot of building frontage
I Zones
100
20
2.0 for every linear foot of building frontage