Chapter 20.44


20.44.010    Purpose.

20.44.020    Permit requirements.

20.44.030    Exemptions.

20.44.040    Signs prohibited.

20.44.050    Performance standards.

20.44.060    General standards.

20.44.070    Sign plan.

20.44.080    District regulations.

20.44.090    Adjustment of sign standards.

20.44.110    Nonconforming signs.

20.44.120    Definitions.

20.44.130    Termination of signs.

20.44.140    Sign maintenance.

20.44.010 Purpose.

The purpose of this chapter is to accommodate and promote sign placement consistent with the character and intent of individual zoning districts by providing minimum standards to safeguard life, health, and visual quality. This is accomplished by regulating and controlling the number, size, design, construction and location of all signs and sign structures. This chapter is further intended to preserve and improve the appearance of the county as a place to live, and as an attraction to nonresidents who want to visit or trade. It encourages sound signing practices as an aid to business and public information while preventing excessive, confusing sign displays. (Ord. TLS 12-10-17B Exh. B (part): Ord. TLS 97-10-71B Exh. H (part))

20.44.020 Permit requirements.

A.    No sign governed by the provisions of this chapter shall be erected, structurally altered or relocated by any person, firm or corporation without a permit from the department. Sign permits shall be processed pursuant to DCC Section 14.10.020.

B.    No building permit shall be required for repainting, cleaning, or other normal maintenance and repair of a sign, or for sign face and copy changes that do not alter the size or structure of the sign. (Ord. TLS 12-10-17B Exh. B (part): Ord. TLS 97-10-71B Exh. H (part))

20.44.030 Exemptions.

The following signs do not require a permit and are exempt from the application, permit, and fee requirements of this chapter. This shall not be construed as relieving the owner of the sign from the responsibility of erecting and maintaining it in conformance with the intent of this chapter or other applicable law or ordinances.

A.    Official flags, emblems, or insignia of the United States, or other governmental unit; and flags of internationally and nationally recognized organizations;

B.    Official and legal notices by any court, public body, persons or officer in performance of a public duty, or in giving any legal notice;

C.    Directional, warning, regulatory, or information signs or structures required or authorized by law; or by federal, state, county, or city authority;

D.    Political signs which, during a campaign, advertise a candidate for public elective office, a political party, or promote a position of a public issue, provided such signs are not posted in a county right-of-way and are removed within thirty days following the election;

E.    Construction and real estate signs not exceeding thirty-two square feet in area;

F.    All temporary signs, provided such signs shall not be displayed for more than sixty days, and provided they do not exceed thirty-two square feet in area;

G.    Structures intended for a separate use such as phone booths, donation collection containers or other similar structures;

H.    Gravestones;

I.    Painting, repainting of an advertising structure or the changing of the advertising copy or message thereon unless structural change is made;

J.    One sign less than four square feet in area not otherwise addressed within this chapter;

K.    Farm product identification signs, provided they do not exceed ten square feet in area;

L.    Grand openings and special event signs which would include banners, streamers and temporary signs, provided they do not exceed a period of more than thirty-five days, and provided they do not obstruct pedestrian or vehicular travel;

M.    A-frame or sandwich board sign located in an RSC or I-G zoning district. (Ord. TLS 12-10-17B Exh. B (part): Ord. TLS 97-10-71B Exh. H (part))

20.44.040 Signs prohibited.

The following signs and sign components are prohibited within any zoning district:

A.    Signs which purport to be, are an imitation of, or resemble an official traffic sign or signal, or which obstruct the visibility of any such signal, or which could cause confusion with any official sign or signal;

B.    Signs attached to utility poles, street lights, and traffic control standard poles;

C.    Swinging, projecting signs;

D.    Signs in a dilapidated or hazardous condition;

E.    Abandoned signs;

F.    Signs on doors, windows, fire escapes or pedestrian paths that restrict free ingress, egress or movement;

G.    Flashing/blinking signs;

H.    Signs placed within a right-of-way or projecting over public rights-of-way, roads, streets or sidewalks;

I.    Off-premises signs;

J.    Any other sign not meeting the provisions of this chapter;

K.    Beacons;

L.    Inflatable signs. (Ord. TLS 12-10-17B Exh. B (part): Ord. TLS 97-10-71B Exh. H (part))

20.44.050 Performance standards.

The following standards are general provisions and are applicable to all districts established by the DCC:

A.    Single or multiple occupancy buildings whose premises extend through a block to face on two parallel or nearly parallel roads with customer entrances on each road are permitted one freestanding sign or monument sign per road frontage; provided, that each freestanding sign or monument sign is located on different road frontages. However, no signs shall be permitted on roads abutting residential districts.

B.    Signs shall only identify uses being conducted on the site and shall be located on the same parcel of land as the principal use. Off-site signs are prohibited.

C.    Buildings, building complexes, or singular buildings or uses containing one or more signs requiring a permit shall be required to submit a sign plan to the department prior to the issuance of the first sign permit for the buildings or complexes. Such sign plan shall be in substantial conformance with DCC Section 20.44.070, Sign plan. All signs shall be identified and coordinated for the entire complex. The sign plan shall contain provisions for coordinating color schemes, sizes, and types of signs and design standards tailored to the needs of the businesses or uses on site.

D.    Except as provided in DCC Section 20.44.080(A), individual businesses in multiple building complexes are not permitted to have freestanding signs. One monument or freestanding sign may be permitted to identify the complex and shall be in compliance with this chapter.

E.    Signs attached to a building shall not exceed three feet above the roof line of any building or structure to which they are attached.

F.    A clear view triangle shall be maintained at all intersecting public or private roads, driveways, and/or curb cuts for vision safety purposes. Refer to DCC Section 12.28.040.

G.    Projecting, freestanding and awning signs shall maintain a minimum clearance of eight feet above the finished grade.

H.    Any signs visible from the Washington State primary system or the scenic system in Douglas County, which include Highways 28, 2, 2/97, 97, 17, and 174 as defined in Chapter 468-66 WAC, shall comply with the provisions of Chapter 468-66 WAC including any permitting required by the Washington State Department of Transportation.

I.    One informational sign per business or use may be permitted indicating the use or business name and the direction in which it is located. The name or logo may be listed but shall not be the primary focus or feature of the sign. Such signs may be a maximum of four feet in height.

J.    Signs to Aid Customers in Circulation within Parking Lots. Signs may be used to indicate entrances, exits, parking areas, or drive-throughs. Signage shall be limited to a maximum of one sign per circulation component. The maximum size is four feet in height. The name of the business or business logo may be listed but shall not be the primary focus or feature of the sign.

K.    A-frame or sandwich board signs located in an RSC or I-G zoning district provided the sign is placed in front of the business establishment the sign is advertising during business hours only. It shall be placed adjacent to the curb; provided, that such sign shall not be placed in any location which obstructs visibility or creates blind spots at intersections or obstructs pedestrian or vehicular travel. Sandwich board signs shall be limited to one per business. (Ord. TLS 12-10-17B Exh. B (part): Ord. TLS 97-10-71B Exh. H (part))

20.44.060 General standards.

The type, number, height, setbacks and maximum sign area are subject to the review procedures of this chapter, and are established for all signs in all zoning districts.

A.    Development Standards.

1.    Construction shall satisfy the requirements of DCC Title 15 and the International Codes.

2.    All signs, together with their supports, braces and guys, shall be maintained in a safe and secure manner.

3.    Except for exempt signs as provided in DCC Section 20.44.030, all signs shall be constructed of permanent materials and shall be permanently attached to the ground, a building, or another structure by direct attachment to a rigid wall, frame or structure.

4.    The ratio of the area of the sign support, framing structure and/or other decorative features which contain no written or advertising copy to the sign cabinet shall not be greater than one to one.

5.    Monument signs shall be constructed as ground-mounted signs with the message component of the sign located above the average ground elevation and attached to the ground by means of a wide base of solid appearance.

B.    Setback. Freestanding and monument signs may be permitted anywhere on the premises, except in a required side yard, or within ten feet of a right-of-way, except as provided in DCC Sections 20.44.080 and 20.44.090. Freestanding signs in the I-G district may locate up to five feet from the face of the curb where the sign would not project over a sidewalk, if the site is adjacent to a private or public street with curbs and/or sidewalk. Signs must be located in conformance with DCC Section 12.28.040 for clear view triangles.

C.    Height.

1.    Freestanding or monument signs shall have a maximum height of fifteen feet for any nonresidential use or a conditional use located outside of the rural service center (RSC) and general industrial (I-G) districts unless otherwise restricted herein.

2.    Freestanding or monument signs shall have a maximum height of twenty-six feet in the I-G district and twenty feet in the RSC and the rural essential public facilities (R-EPF) districts.

D.    Illumination. Illumination from any sign shall be shaded, shielded, directed or reduced so as to avoid undue brightness, glare or reflection of light onto private or public property or right-of-way in the surrounding area, and so as to avoid unreasonable distractions of pedestrians or motorists.

E.    Computations. The following principles shall control the computation of sign area and sign height:

1.    Area of Individual Signs. The area of a sign face (which is also the sign area of a wall sign or other sign with only one face) shall be computed by means of the smallest square, circle, rectangle, triangle or combination thereof that will encompass the extreme limits of the writing, representation, emblem, or other display, together with any material or color forming an integral part of the background of the display or used to differentiate the sign from the backdrop or structure against which it is placed, but not including any supporting framework, bracing, or decorative fence or wall that is clearly incidental to the display itself.

2.    Area of Multi-Faced Signs. The sign area shall be computed by adding together the area of all sign faces. When two identical sign faces are placed back to back, the sign area shall be computed by the measurement of one of the faces. No greater than two faces are permitted per freestanding sign.

3.    Height. The height of a sign shall be computed as the distance from the base of the sign at the average finished grade of the lot to the top of the highest attached component of the sign. In cases in which the normal grade cannot reasonably be determined, or the property is improved with curbs and gutters, sign height shall be computed on the assumption that the elevation of the normal grade at the sign is equal to the average elevation of the sidewalk within fifty feet in either direction of the proposed sign. (Ord. TLS 12-10-17B Exh. B (part): Res. TLS 06-13 § 1 (part); Ord. TLS 00-02-06 Exh. B (part): Ord. TLS 97-10-71B Exh. H (part))

20.44.070 Sign plan.

For any lot on which the owner proposes to erect one or more signs requiring a permit, the owner shall submit to the review authority a sign plan which contains the following information:

A.    An accurate plot plan of the lot, at such scale as the review authority may require;

B.    Location of buildings, parking lots, driveways, and landscaped areas on the lot must be shown;

C.    Computation of the maximum total sign area, the maximum area for individual signs, the height of the signs, type of sign, color, design standards and the number of freestanding signs on the lot(s) included in the plan must be provided, as specified in this chapter;

D.    An accurate indication on the plot plan of the proposed location of each present and future sign of any type, whether requiring a permit or not, must be provided. (Ord. TLS 12-10-17B Exh. B (part): Ord. TLS 97-10-71B Exh. H (part))

20.44.080 District regulations.

This section shall apply to all districts, permitted uses, conditional uses, and accessory uses designated in the zoning ordinance.

A.    General Industrial (I-G) District.

1.    Single business or building unless designed in conjunction with a multiple commercial or industrial center:

a.    One freestanding or monument sign for each lot not located in a multi-occupancy or building complex. The sign shall not exceed a maximum area of two hundred square feet.

b.    Wall or canopy signage per building side shall be permitted for each principal building or occupancy based upon the provisions of subsection (A)(2)(c) of this section. Wall signs other than canopy or awning style signs shall be attached flat against the building and shall not project above the eaves of the roof or the top of the parapet or beyond the eave lines or beyond the outer limits of the wall.

2.    Multi-Tenant Complex, Including Commercial or Industrial Uses.

a.    Freestanding or Monument Signs. One freestanding or monument sign not exceeding two hundred square feet in area that may accommodate the advertising needs of a single individual business or for the entire center or complex.

i.    If four or more buildings, offices or businesses are proposed, to share a joint freestanding or monument sign, the permitted sign area may be increased by ten square feet for each business; however, the total sign area shall not exceed three hundred square feet.

ii.    One additional freestanding sign or monument sign is permitted per center or complex if the premises extends through a block to face on two or more parallel or nearly parallel roads. Additionally, the total number of freestanding or monument signs may be increased to accommodate the needs of individual businesses for individual signage in a center or complex when in accordance with the following table:

Street Frontage per Freestanding or Monument Sign

Total Signs Allowed

1—200 feet


201—400 feet


401—600 feet


601+ feet


Where permitted, multiple freestanding or monument signs oriented to individual businesses shall each individually not exceed two hundred square feet in area. Freestanding or monument signs are prohibited on roads abutting a residential district.

b.    Wall or canopy signage per building side shall be permitted for each principal building or occupancy based upon the provisions of subsection (A)(2)(c) of this section. Identification signs shall be attached flat against the building and shall not project above the eaves of the roof or the top of the parapet or beyond the eave lines or beyond the outer limits of the wall. Unused wall signage area may be used by any enterprise within the same multi-tenant complex where the applicant includes with the application materials to the county a written statement signed by the property owner, authorizing the applicant to utilize the unused sign surface area.

c.    The surface area of any wall-, awning- or canopy-mounted sign shall not exceed the figures derived from the following schedule:

Architectural Building Wall Area

Maximum Sign Surface Area (for that wall area)

Below 100 sq. ft.

32 sq. ft.

100—199 sq. ft.

32 sq. ft. + 11% of wall area over 100 sq. ft.

200—499 sq. ft.

42 sq. ft. + 12% of wall area over 200 sq. ft.

500—999 sq. ft.

75 sq. ft. + 11% of wall area over 500 sq. ft.

1,000—1,499 sq. ft.

131 sq. ft. + 7.5% of wall area over 1,000 sq. ft.

3.    Signs for Aviation Purposes. Attached identification signs are permitted for single and multiple buildings located adjacent to aviation lines of traffic, i.e., runways, taxiways and other aviation circulation elements pertinent to a general aviation airport. Signs shall not exceed the maximum allowable signage area set forth in subsection A of this section. All signs under this provision shall be placed on the aviation side of buildings.

B.    Rural Service Center (RSC) and Rural Essential Public Facilities (R-EPF) Districts.

1.    Single occupancy office or business (building) unless developed as a multiple complex or center: one monument sign for each occupancy not located in a multi-occupancy or building complex, except a freestanding sign may be permitted. The sign shall not exceed a total maximum area of fifty square feet or exceed a height of fifteen feet, except where enumerated elsewhere in this chapter. Signs shall be unlighted or provided with low intensity illumination.

a.    An attached sign, unlighted or with low intensity lighting, placed flat against the wall of the main building, having a combined surface area not greater than thirty-two square feet, is permitted. In lieu of a freestanding or monument sign the attached sign may be increased in area to the total square footage of the freestanding or monument sign plus the square footage of the attached sign for a total of eighty-two square feet.

2.    Multiple occupancy (two or more) offices or businesses: one monument business park identification sign not exceeding eighty square feet, nor exceeding a height of fifteen feet, except where enumerated elsewhere in this title. A freestanding sign may be permitted.

a.    One additional monument sign is permitted per parallel or nearly parallel roads if the premises extends through a block to face on two or more roads, provided the sign is not located on a road abutting an R-L district.

b.    Wall identification signs not exceeding a combined surface area of thirty-two square feet shall be permitted for each principal building or occupancy. Identification signs shall be attached flat against the building and shall not project above the eaves of the roof, the top of the parapet, beyond the eave lines, or beyond the outer limits of the wall.

c.    Individual occupancy signs within a multiple occupancy or building complex shall be consistent with the building architecture and similar in color, design, size and graphics.

3.    Freestanding signs are permitted only where it can be demonstrated that monument signs are not effective due to topography, landscaping and/or natural vegetation, building location/setbacks, adjacent land uses or other physical restraints not created by acts of the property owner. In such cases, signs shall not exceed prescribed height or size limitations and shall be subject to the approval of the review authority. It shall be incumbent upon the owner/operator of such facility to establish the need for such sign based upon the above criteria.

C.    Community Bulletin Board Signs. One community bulletin board sign is permitted when associated with a public school, park, recreation facility, grange, fire station, church or other similar type uses. Only one sign is permitted and shall not exceed fifty square feet in area. Freestanding signs or monument signs shall not exceed a height of fifteen feet and shall meet the minimum setback set forth in DCC Section 20.44.060(B).

D.    Mineral or agricultural resource industry or other permitted activities located outside of a rural service center, industrial center or urban growth area: one freestanding or monument sign illuminated only by direct, low intensity lighting and located on the same parcel as the permitted activity, provided the sign does not exceed a height of ten feet or exceed a maximum area of thirty-two square feet. (Ord. TLS 12-10-17B Exh. B (part): Ord. TLS 00-02-06 Exh. B (part): Ord. TLS 97-10-71B Exh. H (part))

20.44.090 Adjustment of sign standards.

Sign standards in the RSC and I-G districts may be modified above the maximum allowable specified in DCC Section 20.44.080, provided the following conditions are met:

A.    Sign Height and Area. The sign height and area may increase three percent for each one lineal foot that the sign is moved closer to the building than the minimum setback, provided the sign does not exceed thirty percent more than the maximum allowable sign height and area specified in DCC Section 20.44.080; or

B.    Comprehensive Sign Plan. The owners of two or more contiguous (disregarding intervening roads and alleys) lots, or the owner of a single lot with more than one building/business (not including accessory buildings) or an approved multiple complex or center, may file with the review authority for such lots or building a comprehensive sign plan. The comprehensive sign plan may increase the total allowable sign area up to a maximum increase of thirty percent. The allowable sign area is computed by adding the total sign area allowed for each lot or business plus thirty percent. This increased area may be allocated in any manner within each lot as the owner elects; provided, that any one sign does not exceed thirty percent of the individual sign area allowed in DCC Section 20.44.080 and freestanding or monument signs are not located on roads abutting an R-L district. The total number of signs permitted may be exceeded to accommodate the additional allowed area; provided, that the total allowed sign area is not exceeded, the number of freestanding signs is limited to that allowed within the applicable district and the following criteria are met:

1.    The comprehensive sign plan shall contain all of the information required for a sign plan specified in DCC Section 20.44.070 and shall also specify standards for compatibility among all signs on the lots affected by the plan with regard to lettering or graphic style, lighting, location of each sign on the buildings, materials and sign proportions.

2.    The comprehensive sign plan for all lots with multiple uses or users shall limit the number of freestanding or monument signs to the total allowed within the applicable zoning district.

3.    The sign plan shall be included in an MPR master planned resort development plan, conditional use permit, binding site plan, commercial building permit application or other official plans and application materials required by the county for the proposed development and shall be processed simultaneously with such other applications.

4.    If any new or amended comprehensive sign plan is filed for a property on which existing signs are located, it shall include a schedule for bringing into conformance, within three years, all signs not conforming to the proposed amended plan, or to the requirements of this chapter in effect on the date a complete application is accepted.

5.    After approval of a comprehensive sign plan, no sign may be erected, placed, painted, or maintained, except in conformance with such plan, and such plan may be enforced in the same way as any other provision of the DCC. In case of any conflict between the provisions of such a plan and any other provisions of the DCC, the most restrictive provision shall govern.

6.    Comprehensive sign plans developed under this section shall be prepared by an architect or design professional as approved by the director. (Ord. TLS 12-10-17B Exh. B (part): Ord. TLS 97-10-71B Exh. H (part))

20.44.110 Nonconforming signs.

Any sign lawfully existing under all codes and regulations prior to the adoption of this chapter may be continued and maintained as a legal nonconforming sign, provided:

A.    No sign shall be changed in any manner that increases its noncompliance with the provisions of this chapter;

B.    If the sign is structurally altered or moved, its legal nonconforming status shall be void and the sign will be required to conform to the provisions of this chapter;

C.    The sign is not hazardous or abandoned;

D.    The burden of establishing the legal nonconformity of a sign under this section is the responsibility of the person or persons, firm, or corporation claiming legal status of a sign. The approval of an asserted nonconformity is a limited administrative function of the director;

E.    The provisions of DCC Chapter 18.82 may govern certain nonconforming signs. (Ord. TLS 12-10-17B Exh. B (part): Ord. TLS 97-10-71B Exh. H (part))

20.44.120 Definitions.

A.    “Abandoned sign” means any sign located on property that is vacant and unoccupied for a period of six months or more, or any sign which pertains to any occupant, business or event unrelated to the present occupant or use.

B.    “Awning or canopy sign” means any sign that is painted on or forms part of or is integrated into an awning or canopy and that does not extend beyond the limits of such awning or canopy.

C.    “Changing message center sign” means an electronically controlled sign where different automatic changing messages are shown on the lamp bank. This definition includes time and temperature displays.

D.    “Construction sign” means any sign used to identify the architects, engineers, contractors, or other individuals or firms involved with the construction of a building, and to show the design of the building or the purpose for which the building is intended.

E.    “Directional/incidental sign” means signs indicating entrances, exits, service areas, loading only, and parking areas, and which do not contain advertising or promotional information.

F.    “Flashing or blinking sign” means an electric sign or a portion thereof (except changing message centers) which changes light intensity in a sudden transitory burst, or which switches on and off in a constant pattern in which more than one-third of the incandescent light source is off at any one time.

G.    “Freestanding sign” means any sign supported by one or more uprights, poles or braces in or upon the ground and that are independent from any building or other structure.

H.    “Illuminated sign” means an electric sign or other sign employing the use of lighting sources for the purpose of decorating, outlining, accentuating or brightening the sign area.

I.    “Nonconforming sign” means a sign which was legally installed under laws or ordinances in effect prior to the effective date of the ordinance codified in this chapter or subsequent revisions, but which is in conflict with the current provisions of this chapter.

J.    “Portable sign” means any sign not permanently attached to the ground or other permanent structure, or a sign designed to be transported, including, but not limited to, signs designed to be transported by means of wheels, signs converted to A- or T-frames, menu and sandwich board signs, balloons used as signs, and/or umbrellas used for advertising.

K.    “Multiple building complex” means a group of structures containing two or more retail, office, and/or commercial uses sharing the same lot, access and/or parking facilities, or a coordinated site plan. For purposes of this section, each multiple building complex shall be considered a single use.

L.    “Multiple tenant building” means a single structure housing two or more retail, office, or commercial uses. For purposes of this section, each multiple tenant building shall be considered a single use.

M.    “Off-premises sign” means a sign which advertises or promotes merchandise, service, goods, or entertainment which is sold, produced, manufactured or furnished at a place other than on the property on which the sign is located.

N.    “On-premises sign” means a sign incidental to a lawful use of the premises on which it is located, advertising the business transacted, services rendered, goods sold or products produced on the premises or the name of the business, person, firm, or corporation occupying the premises.

O.    “Residential sign” means any sign located in a residential district that contains no commercial message except advertising for goods or services legally offered on the premises where the sign is located, if offering such service location conforms with all requirements of this title.

P.    “Sign” means any communication device, structure, or fixture (including the supporting structure) that identifies, advertises and/or promotes an activity, product, service place, business, or any other use.

Q.    “Temporary sign” means any sign, banner, pennant, valance, or advertising display constructed of cloth, paper, canvas, cardboard, and/or other light, nondurable materials. Types of displays included in this category are signs for grand openings, special sales, special events, and garage sales.

R.    “Wall sign” means any sign attached to or painted directly on the wall, or erected against and parallel to the wall of a building, not exceeding more than twelve inches from the wall. (Ord. TLS 12-10-17B Exh. B (part): Ord. TLS 97-10-71B Exh. H (part))

20.44.130 Termination of signs.

By destruction, damage, obsolescence or danger, the right to maintain any sign shall terminate and shall cease to exist whenever the sign is:

A.    Damaged or destroyed beyond fifty percent of the cost of replacement, as determined by the director as a limited administrative review responsibility;

B.    Structurally substandard to the extent that the sign becomes a hazard or a danger to the public health, safety, and welfare as determined by the appropriate review authority. (Ord. TLS 12-10-17B Exh. B (part): Ord. TLS 97-10-71B Exh. H (part))

20.44.140 Sign maintenance.

All signs shall be maintained in good repair and condition at all times. Any portion of a sign in need of repair shall be repaired or contracted to be repaired. (Ord. TLS 12-10-17B Exh. B (part): Ord. TLS 97-10-71B Exh. H (part))