Chapter 18B.20
COUNTYWIDE SIGN DESIGN REGULATIONS Revised 12/18

Sections:

18B.20.010    Purpose.

18B.20.020    Special Permission Required for Signs within County Right-of-Way.

18B.20.030    General Sign Design Regulations.

18B.20.040    Building and Wall Signs.

18B.20.050    Freestanding Pole and Monument Signs.

18B.20.060    Parking Lot Signage.

18B.20.070    Off-Site Signs.

18B.20.080    Electronic Message Signs. Revised 12/18

18B.20.085    Fuel Price Signs.

18B.20.090    Sign Illumination.

18B.20.010 Purpose.

The purpose of this Chapter is to provide minimum sign standards to safeguard life, health, property, and the general welfare. These standards control the quality of materials, construction, size, location, electrification, and maintenance of all signs and sign structures within the unincorporated areas of Pierce County. (Ord. 2014-42 § 3 (part), 2014; Ord. 2009-21 § 1, 2009; Ord. 2008-56s § 1 (part), 2008; Ord. 2000-55s § 1 (part), 2000; Ord. 95-114 § 2 (part), 1995)

18B.20.020 Special Permission Required for Signs within County Right-of-Way.

No person, organization, or agency shall place, erect, or install any sign within a County road right-of-way without the express permission in writing of the County Engineer (see Chapter 12.28 PCC, Objects Within County Rights-of-Way). (Ord. 2013-85 § 1 (part), 2013; Ord. 2013-30s2 § 6 (part), 2013; Ord. 2009-21 § 1, 2009; Ord. 2008-56s § 1 (part), 2008; Ord. 2000-55s § 1 (part), 2000)

18B.20.030 General Sign Design Regulations.

A.    Regulations – Placement and Location.

1.    No sign shall be designed such that it will either in part or whole change a required setback for the building to which it is attached.

2.    Freestanding signs shall comply with line of sight provisions. See PCC 17B.10.060.

3.    Signs that project from a building or structure must clear sidewalks or the finished ground elevation by at least 8 feet vertically, and may project no more than 4 feet from the building or one-third of the width of the sidewalk, whichever is less. In the absence of sidewalks, the average ground level adjacent to the building front shall be used for measuring height requirements.

4.    Horizontal and vertical clearance of signs or sign structures from energized power lines shall not be less than 12 feet.

5.    A sign should not cover or interrupt major architectural features such as a beam, building line, or structural feature.

6.    Signs shall not cover any window or door opening or project beyond the corner of the wall to which it is attached.

B.    Regulations – Accuracy and Design.

1.    Sign information shall be legible and shall reflect current and accurate information.

C.    Regulations – Setbacks.

1.    Minimum setback regulations for freestanding signs are set forth in Table 18B.20.030-1.

2.    Setbacks are measured from the property line, or in the case of a private road, from the edge of the road right-of-way, to the portion of any sign or sign structure that is closest to the property line or public or private road right-of-way.

3.    The setback from the road for a monument sign may be reduced to 5 feet provided the sign does not obstruct the safe visibility of any motor vehicle or pedestrian traffic. See PCC 17B.10.060.

Table 18B.20.030-1. Countywide Minimum Setbacks for Freestanding Signs

Ground Clearance

Setback from Road ROW

Setback from Interior Yard

Less than 10 feet

15 feet

2 feet

10 feet to 13 feet 6 inches

5 feet

2 feet

More than 13 feet 6 inches

2 feet

2 feet

D.    Regulations – Height.

1.    Maximum height of all signs and sign structures, including trim, shall be 35 feet above ground unless otherwise allowed or limited by the applicable Sign Table. See Chapter 18B.30 PCC.

2.    Airport Hazard Areas. The maximum height for a sign or sign structure may be further limited in airport hazard areas by the Department and/or Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and/or any other governmental agency having proper jurisdiction.

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

18B.20.040 Building and Wall Signs.

A.    Regulations – General.

1.    If the sign is enclosed by a box or outline, the total area of the sign, including the background, is counted as size of the sign. If the sign consists of individual letters, the area enclosed by an imaginary rectangle or square that is drawn around the letters is counted as the sign area;

2.    Temporary and permanent building, window and wall sign area shall not occupy more than 20 percent of the total area of the building facade or the total maximum area allowed in the applicable Sign Table, whichever is less. For purposes of this calculation, signs such as open/closed, store hours, address, and other similar information shall not be included;

3.    Signs placed in the space between windows may not exceed in height more than two-thirds of the distance between the top of a window and the sill of the window above, or major architectural details related thereto;

4.    Wall signs shall be attached flat to, written on, or pinned away from the wall, and may not project from the wall by more than 18 inches in thickness;

5.    All signs shall be permanently attached or affixed in some manner to a building; and

6.    Individual signs within a multi-tenant/multi-building complex shall share a similar style, uniform location and installation format.

B.    Regulations – Projecting Signs.

1.    Projecting signs may be displayed on buildings that are 20 feet or more in width;

2.    Projecting signs must be pinned away from the wall at least 6 inches;

3.    Projecting signs are not permitted at the intersection of walls or corners, except at right angles to the building front; and

4.    In the event of an eave, overhang, or mansard roofline, signs may extend to the bottom of said feature. If no definitive overhang is proposed, projecting signs may extend to the bottom of the fascia trim, but in no case extend above the wall or roof line.

C.    Regulations – Marquee.

1.    One marquee sign shall be allowed per business or tenant for each public street front faced by the business or tenant; individual businesses shall have no more than two marquee signs;

2.    Marquee signs shall only be utilized to display the name of a business, its business logo, and address;

3.    No portion of the signage shall be allowed to extend above or below the marquee to which it is attached;

4.    Letter and logo sizing shall not exceed 24 inches in height and 18 inches in thickness; and

5.    Marquee signs shall be installed perpendicular to the front building elevation.

D.    Regulations – Awning or Canopy Signs.

1.    Awning and canopy signs shall only be utilized to display the name of a business, its business logo, and address;

2.    Letters over 3 inches in height displayed on an awning or canopy shall be subtracted from the items of information allowance, where applicable;

3.    The sign area devoted to sign text, corporate logos, and other graphics shall not exceed 25 percent per face of the canopy or awning;

4.    Up to three sides of the canopy or awning may be used for signage; and

5.    Individual letters, logos, or symbols may not exceed 4 feet in height or project out from the surface of the canopy or awning more than 18 inches or project above or below the canopy face.

E.    Regulations – Iconic Signs.

1.    Iconic signs shall reflect the goods and services offered within the building within which they are affixed;

2.    Iconic signs shall not contain text;

3.    Iconic signs shall not exceed a height of 3 feet and a width of 3 feet; and

4.    Iconic signs may be attached to freestanding or monument signs or the building but shall not be attached to building extrusions such as eaves, overhangs, covered porches, roofs, or other extruded architectural details.

F.    Regulations – Window Signs.

1.    Permanent window signs are subtracted from the building/wall sign area and items of information allowance where applicable; and

2.    Window signage shall not completely obstruct visibility into a building.

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

18B.20.050 Freestanding Pole and Monument Signs.

A.    Regulations – General.

1.    Freestanding signs shall be located on the same parcel as the business or activity identified on the sign, except as authorized in PCC 18B.20.070, Off-Site Signs;

2.    Freestanding signs shall not be located closer than 50 feet to any other freestanding sign;

3.    Freestanding signs shall not be directed toward a highway which is not used for access to the site. Incidental visibility is acceptable when the sign is directed toward the principal access point of the lot;

4.    Signs placed within any required perimeter or parking lot landscaping shall not exceed 4 feet in height. Vegetation may be cleared to provide space for a permitted sign; however, replanting of native plants and/or approved landscaping shall be required;

5.    The total area and height of freestanding signs shall not exceed the regulations identified in the applicable Sign Table; and

6.    In addition to the maximum square footage permitted for freestanding signs, commercial fuel retail uses are permitted an additional 10 square feet of signage per grade of fuel for grade of fuel advertisement only.

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

18B.20.060 Parking Lot Signage.

A.    Regulations – General.

1.    The square footage of parking lot signage shall not be deducted from the overall allowed sign area.

B.    Regulations – Entrance and Exit Signs (Permit Exempt).

1.    Entrance and exit signs and/or other similarly worded signs, when used for the sole purpose of controlling mobile traffic, shall be limited to the following:

a.    One parking lot sign is allowed for each entrance or exit; and

b.    Signs shall not to exceed 42 inches in height above ground level, 16 inches in width, or 6 square feet in size.

C.    Regulations – Menu Reader Boards for Drive-Through Facilities.

1.    Menu reader board signs shall be one sided;

2.    Two menu reader board signs, not exceeding 32 square feet per sign face and a maximum height of 5 feet, shall be permitted; and

3.    Menu reader board signs shall be designed and located to be viewed exclusively by patrons of the development and not plainly visible from off-site.

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

18B.20.070 Off-Site Signs.

A.    Regulations.

1.    One off-site sign shall be permitted for the following civic uses:

a.    Religious Assemblies;

b.    Schools;

c.    Public Safety Services;

d.    Libraries; and

e.    Parks.

2.    Off-site signs, as allowed by A.1. above, shall be subject to the following criteria:

a.    Only one off-site sign shall be permitted for each use to a maximum size of 20 square feet and 15 feet of height, regardless of zone classification;

b.    The sign shall be located within one mile of the lot that contains the permitted civic use;

c.    The sign shall only be illuminated by indirect lighting;

d.    The sign shall comply with the provisions for sign setbacks;

e.    The sign shall be limited to only advertising the permitted civic use or community events;

f.    Authorization from the property owner where the off-site sign is proposed shall be required for a complete permit application;

g.    Individual civic uses that are located on the same or adjacent site and are permitted to display off-site signs may co-locate one sign, not to exceed 40 square feet in area and 15 feet in height, regardless of zone classification; and

h.    Off-site signs are subject to sign type and location prohibitions of Title 18B PCC. See PCC 18B.10.060.

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

18B.20.080 Electronic Message Signs. Revised 12/18

Electronic message signs are allowed as follows:

A.    Electronic message signs are allowed for the following civic uses in urban areas as shown in Table 18B.20.080-1, Electronic Message Signs:

1.    Schools (elementary, middle, high, college, university);

2.    Regional park facilities;

3.    Police and fire stations; and

4.    Religious facilities.

B.    Electronic message signs are allowed for the following civic uses in rural areas as shown in Table 18B.20.080-1, Electronic Message Signs:

1.    Schools (elementary, middle, high, college, university); and

2.    Police and fire stations.

C.    Electronic message signs shall be allowed in urban commercial zone classifications as shown in Table 18B.20.080-1, Electronic Message Signs.

D.    Temporary electronic message signs used for traffic control purposes within the County or State rights-of-way, as approved by the County Engineer or Washington State Department of Transportation, are permitted County-wide.

E.    All electronic message signs are subject to subsection B. of this Section, Electronic Message Signs*.

Table 18B.20.080-1. Electronic Message Signs (1) 

Commercial Urban Zones

Civic Uses (2) in Urban Areas

Civic Uses (2) in Rural Areas

Minimum Display Time: Major Arterials

Minimum Display Time: All Other Roadways

Message Requirements

Pierce County Non-Community Plan Areas

P

P

P

No less than 8 seconds

No less than 20 seconds

Text and numerals including punctuation, static images, graphics, logos and symbols only

Alderton-McMillin Community Plan Area

P

P

No less than 8 seconds

No less than 20 seconds

Text and numerals including punctuation, static images, graphics, logos and symbols only

Browns Point/Dash Point Community Plan Area

(3)

P

No less than 8 seconds

No less than 20 seconds

Text and numerals including punctuation, static images, graphics, logos and symbols only

Frederickson Community Plan Area

(4)

P

No less than 8 seconds

No less than 20 seconds

Text and numerals including punctuation, static images, graphics, logos and symbols only

Gig Harbor Peninsula Community Plan Area

P

P

No less than 8 seconds

No less than 20 seconds

Text and numerals including punctuation, static images, graphics, logos and symbols only

Graham Community Plan Area

P

P

No less than 8 seconds

No less than 20 seconds

Text and numerals including punctuation, static images, graphics, logos and symbols only

Key Peninsula Community Plan Area

P

Mid-County Community Plan Area

P

P

No less than 8 seconds

No less than 20 seconds

Text and numerals including punctuation, static images, graphics, logos and symbols only

Parkland-Spanaway-Midland Communities Plan Area

P

P

No less than 8 seconds

No less than 20 seconds

Text and numerals including punctuation, static images, graphics, logos and symbols only

South Hill Community Plan Area

P

No less than 8 seconds

No less than 20 seconds

Text and numerals including punctuation, static images, graphics, logos and symbols only

Upper Nisqually Valley Community Plan Area

P

(1) For the purposes of this Section, fuel price signs are not considered electronic message signs. See PCC 18B.20.085.

(2) Permitted civic uses are limited to schools, regional parks, religious facilities, and Police/Fire Stations in the urban area and schools and police/fire stations in the rural area.

(3) Permitted in conjunction with a master sign plan for the Town Center complex.

(4) Permitted only for time and temperature displays.

P Permitted.

Note: All electronic message signs are subject to PCC 18B.20.080 F., Regulations – Electronic Message Signs.

F.    Regulations – Electronic Message Signs.

1.    An electronic message sign, as a wall or freestanding sign, shall not exceed the size, setback or height limits of the zone classification.

2.    When an electronic message sign is located in a residential zone classification, the sign shall not operate between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.

3.    An electronic message sign shall be located on the same site as the use for which it is associated.

4.    Information on the electronic message sign shall only include alphanumeric characters, punctuation, static images, graphics, logos, and symbols.

5.    Electronic message signs shall display static messages only. No video, scrolling, streaming, flashing, or trailing content, animations, or similar displays are permitted.

6.    The change from one message to another message shall be no more frequent than once every 8 seconds when along a major arterial and 20 seconds when along all other roadways.

7.    The change of message shall be completed in two seconds or less. Messages, including backgrounds, text, numbers, static images, graphics, logos, and symbols, may change by dissolve, fade, or by instantaneous change from one static display to another, but shall remain as a static display after completing the change and, once changed, shall remain static until the next change.

8.    Electronic message signs shall not exceed a brightness level of 0.3 foot candles above ambient light as measured using a foot candle meter at a preset distance depending on sign size. Measurement distance shall be determined using the following calculation: the square root of the product of the sign area times 100. Example using a 12 square foot sign: √(12x100) = 34.6 feet measuring distance.

9.    Electronic message signs shall be equipped with a mechanism that automatically adjusts the brightness in response to ambient conditions and equipped with a means to immediately turn off the display if it malfunctions or if for some reason it is not complying with the regulations in this Section.

* Code Revisor’s Note: The reference to subsection B. in PCC 18B.20.080 E. above has been recodified to PCC 18B.20.080 C.

(Ord. 2017-89s § 3 (part), 2018; Ord. 2016-42s § 1 (part), 2016; Ord. 2014-42 § 3 (part), 2014; Ord. 2013-85 § 1 (part), 2013; Ord. 2013-30s2 § 6 (part), 2013)

18B.20.085 Fuel Price Signs.

Fuel price signs, manual or electronic, are permitted Countywide. Fuel products and prices shall be the only information displayed. These signs are allowed as a separate monument sign or as a component of a freestanding sign as permitted by this Chapter. The product on the sign should be fixed and the price changed infrequently. (Ord. 2016-42s § 1 (part), 2016)

18B.20.090 Sign Illumination.

A.    Regulations – General.

1.    Illumination should be energy efficient and shall be arranged so the light source is shielded from view;

2.    All sign illumination shall be directed to preclude glare visible from public right-of-way and neighboring properties;

3.    Surface brightness or intensity of lighting shall not be beyond that necessary for visibility from the public right-of-way;

4.    Signs shall not produce a harsh, uncomfortably bright light either through the level of illumination or a combination of illumination levels and design of the sign face;

5.    Signs shall not be overly bright so as to overshadow signs in the immediate vicinity, cause glare, or create an island of light;

6.    Signs shall not be permitted to remain lit during non-business hours; and

7.    Internal or backlit sign illumination is the only type of illumination permitted for commercial or civic uses.

B.    Regulations – Illumination. The following types of illumination and mechanical movement are permitted for all activities in all zone classifications subject to the limitations indicated in this subsection, unless precluded by PCC 18B.10.060, Prohibited Locations for Signs and Prohibited Signs:

1.    Colored light. White light is the only color of light which is permitted in areas designated as rural residential or within 300 feet of such areas. Colored light is only allowed in urban and rural center zone classifications.

2.    Internal illumination. Internal illumination is a light source concealed or contained within the sign and which becomes visible in darkness through a translucent surface. Such lighting is allowed in urban and rural center zone classifications. Brightness shall not be so great as to disturb nearby residences.

3.    Indirect illumination. Indirect illumination is a light source not directly seen. It is allowed for all activities subject to the provisions of this Section and these Regulations.

4.    Floodlight illumination. Floodlight illumination is allowed for commercial activities in urban and rural center zone classifications provided that the floodlight or spotlight is positioned so that none of the light shines onto an adjoining property or in the eyes of motorists or pedestrians.

5.    Neon tube illumination. Neon tube illumination is a source of light supplied by a neon tube that is bent to form letters, symbols, or other shapes (does not include signs that are internally lit by neon tubing).

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