Chapter 18B.10


18B.10.010    Purpose.

18B.10.015    Applicability.

18B.10.020    Definitions.

18B.10.030    Permits and Permit Exemptions.

18B.10.040    Temporary Signs.

18B.10.050    Coordination with Other Titles.

18B.10.060    Prohibited Locations for Signs.

18B.10.070    Prohibited Sign Types.

18B.10.080    Sign Variance.

18B.10.090    Maintenance.

18B.10.100    Removal of Sign – Time Period.

18B.10.110    Severability.

18B.10.010 Purpose.

Title 18B PCC establishes general requirements and regulations for signs located within Pierce County and provides minimum sign regulations to safeguard life, property, and the general welfare. These regulations control the quality of materials, construction, size, location, electrification, and maintenance of all signs and sign structures within the unincorporated areas of Pierce County. The regulation of signs in Pierce County achieves the following purposes:

A.    To allow businesses, institutions, and individuals to exercise their right to free speech by displaying information on a sign and to allow audiences to receive such information.

B.    To promote and maintain visually attractive residential retail commercial, historic open space, and industrial districts.

C.    To provide for reasonable and appropriate communication and identification for on- premises signs in commercial districts in order to foster successful businesses.

D.    To provide for reasonable and appropriate communication for on-premises signs within industrial districts.

E.    To encourage the use of creative and visually attractive signs.

F.    To ensure that the type and location of signs are designed to reduce sign distraction and confusion that may be contributing factors in traffic congestion and accidents and maintain a safe and orderly pedestrian and vehicular environment.

G.    To protect property values.

H.    To promote the public health, safety and welfare by avoiding conflicts between signs and traffic control devices, avoiding traffic hazards, and reducing visual distractions and obstructions.

I.    To protect and preserve the aesthetic quality and physical appearance of the County.

J.    To provide a balanced and fair legal framework for design, construction and placement of signs.

K.    To provide fair and consistent permitting and enforcement.

(Ord. 2016-42s § 1 (part), 2016; Ord. 2013-85 § 1 (part), 2013; Ord. 2013-30s2 § 6 (part), 2013; Ord. 97-84 § 3 (part), 1997)

18B.10.015 Applicability.

Title 18B PCC shall apply to the construction, placement, installation, and maintenance of all signs located in unincorporated Pierce County. For purposes of Title 18B PCC, a sign is any object, device, display, structure, or part thereof which is used to advertise, identify, direct, or attract attention to a product, business, activity, place, person, institution, or event using words, letters, figures, designs, symbols, fixtures, colors, illumination, or projected images. (Ord. 2013-85 § 1 (part), 2013; Ord. 2013-30s2 § 6 (part), 2013; Ord. 2002-113s § 3 (part), 2002)

18B.10.020 Definitions.

See Chapter 18B.70 PCC herein for sign terms used throughout Title 18B PCC and Chapter 18.25 PCC for other defined terms. (Ord. 2013-85 § 1 (part), 2013; Ord. 2013-30s2 § 6 (part), 2013; Ord. 2004-58s § 3, 2004; Ord. 2004-52s § 4 (part), 2004; Ord. 2002-113s § 3 (part), 2002; Ord. 2002-22s § 2 (part), 2002; Ord. 2000-55s § 1 (part), 2000; Ord. 97-84 § 3 (part), 1997)

18B.10.030 Permits and Permit Exemptions.

A.    Permits Required.

1.    No sign shall be installed, constructed or altered, except as provided by Title 18B PCC, without a sign permit first being issued by the Planning and Public Works Department (PPW).

2.    A separate permit shall be required for each sign, even if installed at one time on contiguous property.

3.    Sign permit applications shall be approved only when intended to advertise or announce a legally established use.

B.    Permit Exemptions.

1.    General.

a.    Exemption from the requirement to obtain a permit shall not authorize any sign constructed, erected, or located in any manner in violation of the provisions of this Title or any other laws or ordinances of Pierce County, including the prohibition against placing signs upon County right-of-way.

b.    Repainting, cleaning, or other normal maintenance or repair of a sign or sign structure for which a permit has previously been issued shall not require a new sign permit, so long as the structure, design, color, material, or content, etc. is not modified in such a way as to conflict with the intent of the Comprehensive Plan or these regulations.

c.    Changing the advertising copy or message of an approved reader board, theater marquee, or electronic message sign shall not require a new sign permit.

d.    Design features of a building, when such features are an essential part of the architecture of a building (including religious symbols) and which do not represent a product service or registered trademark, shall not require a sign permit.

2.    Permit Exempt Signs. A sign permit is not required for the following:

a.    Signs not exceeding 2 square feet in area, stationary, and non-illuminated;

b.    Memorial signs or tablets, names of buildings and date of erection;

c.    Signs of the State, County, city, public service, or utility companies indicating danger, aids to service or safety, traffic control or traffic direction signs, or Adopt-A-Road Litter Control Program signs;

d.    Signs posted inside a building and not visible from outside the building and any sign that is not visible off site except for parking lot signage regulated pursuant to PCC 18B.20.060;

e.    Building address numbers with cumulative area of 8 square feet or less;

f.    Community service club signs announcing multiple service clubs;

g.    Community plan area identification signs at locations authorized in individual community plans, not to exceed 6 square feet in size;

h.    Governmental or official notices, flags, emblems, or insignia; and

i.    Temporary signs as described in PCC 18B.10.040, Temporary Signs.

C.    Permit Application Submittal.

1.    Sign permit applications are accepted by the Department as being fully complete when they include all the necessary information as identified on the applicable submittal standard, the appropriate fees, and any other pertinent information as the Department may require to insure compliance with the provisions of Title 18B PCC. See Chapter 18.40 PCC for details about the application filing process.

2.    For multi-tenant and multi-building complexes, unless the request is like for like (or smaller) replacement of an existing sign, or if the request is consistent with a master sign plan previously approved by the Department, the applicant shall provide:

a.    A site plan showing the location of each wall and freestanding sign;

b.    Drawings, renderings, and/or photographs of each sign; and

c.    The dimensions and materials used for each sign.

D.    Compliance with Building Codes. All signs authorized through Title 18B PCC shall comply with the International Building Code or other building codes adopted by the County for structural requirements.

(Ord. 2017-12s § 2 (part), 2017; Ord. 2014-42 § 3 (part), 2014; Ord. 2013-85 § 1 (part), 2013; Ord. 2013-30s2 § 6 (part), 2013; Ord. 2009-21 § 1, 2009; Ord. 2008-56s § 1 (part), 2008; Ord. 2007-85s § 3 (part), 2007; Ord. 2004-52s § 4 (part), 2004; Ord. 2002-22s § 2 (part), 2002; Ord. 2000-55s § 1 (part), 2000; Ord. 99-68 § 4, 1999; Ord. 97-84 § 3 (part), 1997)

18B.10.040 Temporary Signs.

Temporary signs consist of all types of signs that are not permanently affixed to a building or structure including, but not limited to: banners, garage sale signs, pennants, feather/sail signs, window signs, A-boards, and political signs. Temporary signs are typically constructed of cloth, light fabric, paper, plastic, cardboard, or other similar material. Temporary signs are not intended for ongoing advertising of products or services, or for the naming of a business in lieu of a permitted permanent sign.

A.    Regulations – General.

1.    No more than one temporary sign which is not affixed to a building may be displayed along each road frontage, per establishment, at any one time.

2.    Temporary signs shall not be placed in or over a public right-of-way (except for an approved community event banner pursuant to Chapter 12.48 PCC), may not flash, blink, spin, rotate, block traffic visibility, constitute a vehicular or pedestrian traffic hazard, or cause a public nuisance of any kind.

3.    Temporary signs shall not be placed in any of the prohibited sign locations as set forth in PCC 18B.10.060.

4.    Temporary signs may be attached to existing permanent signs to cover an existing permanent sign if the business or organization has changed. Such temporary signs shall be removed within 30 days of installation.

5.    When attached to, or placed upon a building, a temporary sign shall not be placed higher than the fascia of the building.

6.    Temporary signs shall not be placed in any required landscape areas.

7.    Temporary signs shall be securely installed to avoid becoming a hazard.

8.    Temporary electronic signs may be used for traffic control purposes within the County or State right-of-way, as approved by the County Engineer or Washington State Department of Transportation.

B.    Regulations – Number of Days Allowed.

1.    Temporary signs may be displayed for up to 10 consecutive days and may not exceed a total of 42 days per calendar year, unless otherwise specified in this Section.

2.    Agricultural Exception. Temporary A-board or banner signs may be displayed in the ARL and RF zone classifications for the purpose of advertising seasonal agricultural products for up to 90 consecutive days per calendar year.

C.    Regulations – A-Board/Sandwich Board Signs.

1.    A-board signs are prohibited on single tenant sites unless those sites front streets with speed limits not exceeding 25 miles per hour.

2.    Each establishment is allowed one A-board sign.

3.    A-board signs shall be located within 8 feet of the establishment to which it is serving except that when on-site freestanding signs are smaller than 64 square feet, an A-board sign may be placed further than 8 feet from the establishment it is advertising.

4.    A-board signs shall be placed a minimum of 15 feet from any property line and shall not exceed 48 inches tall and 36 inches wide.

D.    Regulations – Banners.

1.    Only one retail banner may be displayed per establishment at any one time.

2.    Event banners are allowed when associated with community and civic events.

3.    Banners shall only be allowed as a temporary sign.

4.    The maximum sign area of a banner shall be 60 square feet.

5.    The minimum vertical clearance under a banner shall be 10 feet, except that Street Banners shall be 20 feet above any road pursuant to Chapter 12.48 PCC.

6.    A banner advertising a community or civic event may be displayed 30 days prior to the event, and shall be removed 10 days after completion of the event.

7.    A retail banner, typically advertising information about special sales, promotions or other business services, shall be located on the site that the business activity occurs. Each business may display a retail banner for a maximum of 60 days per calendar year.

E.    Regulations – Inflatable Signs.

1.    Inflatable signs shall only be allowed as a temporary sign.

2.    Only one inflatable sign shall be allowed per property.

3.    The height of inflatable signs shall be limited to 25 feet from the ground with a circumference not to exceed 60 feet.

F.    Regulations – Political Signs.

1.    Political signs shall not be erected upon any private property without permission of the resident or owner thereof;

2.    Political signs shall not exceed 32 square feet in area and shall not obstruct safe visibility of any mobile or pedestrian traffic; and

3.    Political signs shall not be displayed more than 10 days after the date of the election for which intended. In cases where a general election follows a primary election, those signs for candidates whose names will appear on the ballot in the general election may be displayed during the interim period and up to 10 days after the general election.

G.    Regulations – Construction Signs.

1.    Construction signs are allowed during the construction period;

2.    Constructions signs shall not exceed a maximum area of 16 square feet nor be more than 15 feet in height for each architect, engineer, contractor, or other individual or firms involved in the construction; and

3.    Construction signs shall be confined to the site of the construction and shall be removed within 14 days of the beginning of the intended use of the project.

H.    Regulations – Rental and Real Estate Signs.

1.    Signs advertising the sale or lease of the property or part of the property on which the signs are displayed are allowed up to a total area of 12 square feet for commercial and 4 square feet for residential; and

2.    Such signs shall be removed within 14 days of the sale or lease or expiration of the listing and in no case shall be allowed to remain on-site for more than one year without obtaining a sign permit.

I.    Regulations – Decorations.

1.    Decorations for religious or other non-commercial holiday of a primarily decorative nature that are customary and commonly associated with a national, local or religious holiday may be displayed 30 days prior to the holiday, and shall be removed 10 days after completion of the event.

(Ord. 2014-42 § 3 (part), 2014; Ord. 2013-85 § 1 (part), 2013; Ord. 2013-30s2 § 6 (part), 2013)

18B.10.050 Coordination with Other Titles.

Administration of Title 18B PCC shall be coordinated with the provisions of the following Pierce County Code (PCC) Titles when applicable.

A.    Title 1, General Provisions.

1.    Public Hearing. A public hearing required pursuant to Title 18B PCC shall follow the procedures set forth in Chapter 1.22 PCC.

2.    Reconsideration and Appeal Procedures. Procedures for appeal of any administrative decision and procedures for reconsideration or appeal of a Hearing Examiner decision issued pursuant to Title 18B PCC are set forth in Chapter 1.22 PCC.

B.    Title 2, Administration.

1.    Fees. Fees for applications filed pursuant to Title 18B PCC are set forth in Chapter 2.05 PCC.

C.    Title 12, Roads and Rights-of-Way. See Chapter 12.42 PCC for Adopt-a-Road Litter Control Program signs and Chapter 12.48 PCC for Street Banners.

D.    Title 17B, Construction and Infrastructure Regulations – Road and Bridge Design and Construction Standards. See Chapter 17B.20 for Traffic Signs.

E.    Title 18, Development Regulations – General Provisions.

1.    Definitions. Except for words and terms defined in Chapter 18B.70 PCC, Definitions, and in Chapter 18.25 PCC, all words and terms used in Title 18B PCC shall have their customary meanings.

2.    Preliminary Review. The provisions for conducting a preliminary review of a proposed application are set forth in Chapter 18.40 PCC.

3.    Application Filing. Applications filed pursuant to Title 18B PCC shall be reviewed for completeness in accordance with Department submittal regulations checklists and pursuant to Chapter 18.40 PCC.

4.    Public Notice. Public notice provisions for notice of application, environmental action, if applicable, and final decision pursuant to this Title are outlined in Chapter 18.80 PCC.

5.    Review. The Department shall review applications in accordance with the provisions outlined in Chapter 18.60 PCC.

6.    Time Period for Final Decision. The provisions for issuing a notice of final decision on any application filed pursuant to Title 18B PCC are set forth in Chapter 18.100 PCC.

7.    Compliance. The regulations for compliance with the provisions of Title 18B PCC are set forth in Chapter 18.140 PCC.

F.    Title 18A, Development Regulations – Zoning.

1.    Billboards. For Billboards, see Chapter 18A.55 PCC.

(Ord. 2013-85 § 1 (part), 2013; Ord. 2013-30s2 § 6 (part), 2013)

18B.10.060 Prohibited Locations for Signs.

A.    Signs are prohibited from the following locations in Pierce County:

1.    Any location that obstructs or otherwise interferes with pedestrian traffic or any official traffic sign, signal or device, drivers view approaching, merging, or intersecting traffic;

2.    Encroaching upon or overhanging into public right-of-way, except when given express permission in writing by the County Engineer (see Chapter 12.28 PCC, Objects Within County Rights-of-Way);

3.    Upon or propped up against a utility pole, light standard, traffic sign, fire hydrant or any other facility or equipment located within the public right-of-way, pursuant to RCW 70.54.090;

4.    Painted on or attached to a vehicle when such vehicle is parked to be visible from a public right-of-way for the purpose of providing advertisement of products and/or services and when such vehicle is not regularly used for business activities;

5.    Attached to or painted on a tree or fence, except as needed on utility facility fencing;

6.    Within any required perimeter or parking lot landscaping, except for signs not exceeding 4 feet in height when no required landscaping is disturbed; and

7.    Off-site, except as follows:

a.    Directional and temporary signage to advertise a public community event;

b.    Signs that advertise multiple businesses within a given business district or commercial center;

c.    Signs authorized in PCC 18B.20.070, Off-Site Signs; and

d.    As authorized in the Key Peninsula Community Plan Area pursuant to PCC 18B.30.080 D.

(Ord. 2013-85 § 1 (part), 2013; Ord. 2013-30s2 § 6 (part), 2013)

18B.10.070 Prohibited Sign Types.

A.    The following sign types are prohibited in Pierce County:

1.    Signs which are an imitation of or resemble official traffic signs;

2.    Electronic signs other than electronic message signs as allowed pursuant to PCC 18B.20.080, Electronic Message Signs;

3.    Roof signs, except when located in the Gig Harbor Peninsula and Key Peninsula Community Plan areas; and

4.    Rotating signs, except for authorized iconic signs such as a barber pole.

B.    See also Chapter 18B.30 PCC for community specific prohibited sign information.

(Ord. 2016-42s § 1 (part), 2016; Ord. 2016-33 § 1 (part), 2016; Ord. 2015-86 § 1 (part), 2015; Ord. 2015-40 § 5 (part), 2015; Ord. 2014-42 § 3 (part), 2014; Ord. 2013-85 § 1 (part), 2013; Ord. 2013-30s2 § 6 (part), 2013)

18B.10.080 Sign Variance.

A.    An applicant who seeks an exception from the provisions of Title 18B PCC may pursue a sign variance.

B.    Review Process.

1.    An application for a sign variance may be considered administratively if such request is to deviate not more than 20 percent from a numerical regulation.

2.    An application for administrative sign variance shall be decided by the Director.

3.    An application for sign variance to deviate more than 20 percent from a numerical regulation, or from a non-numerical regulation, shall be decided by the Hearing Examiner.

C.    Review Criteria. The applicant shall demonstrate compliance with all of the following review criteria:

1.    Exceptional or unusual circumstances, not resulting from any act of the applicant, apply to the project location and not generally to other properties in the vicinity;

2.    The sign proposal is outstanding in design;

3.    The variance request is the minimum necessary to serve its intended purpose;

4.    The variance request is consistent with the purpose and intent of the Comprehensive Plan and the Development Regulations; and

5.    Applicable community plan and Comprehensive Plan objectives and goals are being met through this design proposal, and no objective of the applicable community plan or Comprehensive Plan is being deviated from.

D.    Public Meeting Required. A public meeting before any established and active Land Use Advisory Commission shall be required for all non-administrative sign variance requests.

E.    Public Hearing Required. After all requests for additional information or plan correction have been satisfied, the Department shall set a date for a public hearing before the Pierce County Hearing Examiner, for all non-administrative sign variances. The public hearing shall follow the procedures set forth in Chapter 1.22 PCC.

F.    Decision.

1.    The Director shall have the authority to grant or grant with conditions an administrative sign variance when, in the opinion of the Director, the review criteria described in PCC 18B.10.080 C. above have been met.

2.    For all other sign variances, the Examiner shall have the authority to grant, or grant with conditions, a sign variance, when in the opinion of the Examiner, the review criteria described in PCC 18B.10.080 C. above have been met.

3.    The Examiner and Director, as applicable, shall have the authority, as part of the approval of the variance, to establish expiration dates or time periods within which the approval must be exercised. Upon expiration the permit or approval shall be considered null and void. No extensions of the expiration date shall be permitted.

4.    Denial. Noncompliance with any review criteria may be considered grounds for denial of a sign variance application.

(Ord. 2013-85 § 1 (part), 2013; Ord. 2013-30s2 § 6 (part), 2013; Ord. 2009-18s3 § 3 (part), 2009; Ord. 2000-55s § 1 (part), 2000; Ord. 97-84 § 3 (part), 1997)

18B.10.090 Maintenance.

All signs shall be of rust-inhibitive material or treatment, and shall be maintained in good condition. All signs, together with all of their supports, braces, guys and anchors shall be kept in good repair and in a safe state of preservation. The display surfaces of all signs shall be kept neatly painted or posted. (Ord. 2013-85 § 1 (part), 2013; Ord. 2013-30s2 § 6 (part), 2013)

18B.10.100 Removal of Sign – Time Period.

Signs, excluding sign structures, shall be removed within 30 days of discontinuance or vacation of the business or activity to which the sign is associated. (Ord. 2013-85 § 1 (part), 2013; Ord. 2013-30s2 § 6 (part), 2013)

18B.10.110 Severability.

If any provision of this Title or its application to any person or circumstance is held invalid, the remainder of the regulations or the application of the provision to other persons or circumstances shall not be affected. (Ord. 2013-85 § 1 (part), 2013; Ord. 2013-30s2 § 6 (part), 2013; Ord. 97-84 § 3 (part), 1997)