Board of Supervisors Meeting Date:

Raymond E. Graham, Cedar Run District Supervisor


February 14, 2008


Staff Lead:


Kimberley Johnson, Zoning Administrator


Community Development




A Resolution Initiating a Zoning Ordinance Text Amendment to Section 8-1502 to Allow Exceptions and Variations to Sign Limits by Approval of  a Special Exception by the Board of Supervisors


Topic Description: 

The proposed text amendment allows the Board of Supervisors, through the Special Exception process, to approve signs which do not comply with the signage regulations in Article 8 of the Zoning Ordinance.


Requested Action of the Board of Supervisors:

For purposes of good zoning practice, convenience, and general welfare, consider approval of the attached resolution.


Financial Impact Analysis:

No financial impact analysis has been conducted.


Staff Report:

Over the past several years, an increasing number of individuals and businesses have raised concerns about the existing sign regulation limits.  In several recent cases, the Board approved specific text amendments to allow additional signage under specific circumstances.  These cases include:

-     Culpeper Farmer’s Cooperative, where the limit of 32 square feet of signage for businesses in the rural district was increased to 150 square feet and also changed to allow an off-premise sign on adjoining property.

-     Costco, where the limit of 150 square feet of signage total was allowed to be increased through a text amendment allowing additional signage on big box stores with special exception approval.

-     Mixed Use portion of Liberty Station, where signage was allowed to be increased through a text amendment allowing an increase in signage in traditional, pedestrian oriented development by approval of a special permit.

Two text amendments related to signage limits are currently in the review and hearing process:

-     An amendment increasing the type and amount of signage to be allowed at Fire Stations.

-     An amendment allowing the Board of Zoning Appeals to approve additional content on Directional Signs (they are now limited to approving additional square footage). 

In recent weeks, multiple new sign issues have been raised to staff by business owners, sign companies and Supervisors.  These cases include:

-     The Trenis Exxon on Route 28 in Catlett applied to replace two existing “Exxon” canopy signs with two larger “Exxon” canopy signs.  In reviewing the permit, it was discovered that the existing signage on the property exceeds the amount allowed and therefore no permits could be approved for the additional signage.  A question was raised by Supervisor Graham as to whether the existing regulations for gas stations allow adequate signage in all cases, since stations typically display fuel prices in addition to identification information and therefore may need more signage than some other businesses.

-     The new Toyota Dealership on Route 29 just north of Warrenton submitted a sign package for an estimated 300-400 square feet of signage, whereas the existing regulations limit the use to 150 square feet, including the freestanding sign.   While willing to make some modifications to proposed signage, the owner expressed some concern about the adequacy of the signage given the location, size and nature of the uses and buildings, and the signage of surrounding uses.  Interest has been expressed in a text amendment to allow the Board to consider additional signage in this case.

-     An off-site sign advertising sales at Mill Run Business Park located on Route 29 violates Zoning Ordinance provisions.  While an off-site directional sign is allowed or an off-site real estate sign, they are limited in size and content.  While more signage would be allowed on the actual property, the Mill Run Business Park does not have actual frontage on Route 29, so a sign placed on the property itself would have limited or no visibility.

-     The Old Dominion Electrical Cooperative is seeking to place an identification sign off-site, on an easement on an adjoining property for the Dominion’s Remington Generating Facility.  The only sign allowed off-site in this instance is a two square foot directional sign with name and arrow.  Old Dominion had indicated they will seek a text amendment to allow their identification sign to be placed off-site.

There is no question that the County’s sign regulations would benefit from an update; the current regulations were generally adopted in 1981, with certain portions dating back to the 1970s.   Revising the sign regulations is likely to be a lengthy and time-consuming task.  It is quite typical for a jurisdiction to spend years in sign regulation updates; and staff currently does not have the necessary resources to give to this task unless other priorities are shifted.   As an interim measure, some flexibility could be introduced into the Zoning Ordinance so that the Board could approve modifications from the sign regulations on a case-by-case basis through the special exception process, taking into consideration the unique characteristics of each site.   The proposed text amendment provides that flexibility, utilizing language modeled after a similar provision in Prince William County.  


Identify any other Departments, Organizations or Individuals that would be affected by this request:

Department of Economic Development

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