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
- 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
- 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.