Summary Staff Report:
Over the past several years, an increasing number of
individuals and businesses have raised concerns about
perceived limitations, such as the amount and types of
signage allowed in a given district, in the existing sign
regulations contained in Article 8 of the Zoning Ordinance.
In several recent cases, the Board of Supervisors 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 by the Board.
- 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.
- An amendment increasing the type and amount of signage to be
allowed at Fire Stations.
Most recently, multiple new sign issues have been raised to
staff by business owners, sign companies and Board members.
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 already exceeds the amount
allowed and, therefore, no permits can be approved for the
site. A question was raised by Supervisor Graham as to
whether the existing regulations for gas stations allow
adequate signage, since stations typically display fuel
prices in addition to identification information and
therefore may need more signage than other commercial
- 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 freestanding signs.
While willing to make some modifications to proposed
signage, the owner expressed some concern about the adequacy
of the amount of allowable signage given the location, size
and nature of the uses and buildings, and the existing
signage of surrounding uses. Interest was expressed in
drafting 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 off-site directional signs and off-site real estates
signs are allowed, 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 2
square foot directional sign with the business name and
directional arrow. Old Dominion has indicated that they
will seek a text amendment to allow their identification
sign to be placed off-site.
Staff is in agreement that the existing Ordinance
regulations regarding signs would benefit from an update
since the current regulations were generally adopted in
1981, with certain portions dating back to the 1970’s.
Given the complexity and level of interest in issues
relating to signs, revising this portion of the Zoning
Ordinance is likely to be a lengthy and challenging task.
It is typical for a jurisdiction to spend years in sign
regulation updates given their scope, and staff is currently
in the process of shifting priorities to begin an update of
these regulations in the near future. As an interim
measure, some flexibility could be introduced into the
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.
14, 2008, the Board initiated a resolution authorizing a
proposed text amendment to Section 8-1502 of the Ordinance,
to allow exceptions and variations to sign limits in the
commercial and industrial districts by approval of a special
exception by the Board. The text amendment provided with
the initiation included language modeled after a similar
provision in Prince William County, and gave very broad
discretion to the Board to approve signs which did not
comply with most of the sign regulations in Article 8 of the
Zoning Ordinance. While the language does provide the
desired flexibility in allowing additional signage for
businesses in these districts, the breadth of scope is such
that its application could result in sign proposals that
allow amounts and types of signage that go far beyond
current Ordinance provisions.
conjunction with the initiation, several Board members
suggested the authority to waive sign requirements be more
tightly defined in the text amendment, in recognition that
the waiver process is an interim measure to allow additional
accommodations in the commercial and industrial districts
rather than an invitation to disregard the framework of the
existing regulations. Concerns were raised that the waiver
process could also allow proposals that may not conform to
any new standards that are proposed in the future, thereby
creating non-conformities and a competitive disadvantage for
businesses that attempt to make application for signage
under a revised set of provisions. It should also be noted
that as non-conformities, signs are uniquely challenging as
a land use issue in that their variation often precludes a
wholesale corrective measure. Furthermore, the ease of
re-facing a non-conforming sign structure makes a natural
reduction of these structures, such as through the gradual
redevelopment of an area, less likely.
reasons, staff proposed revised language that attempts to
balance the scope presented in the Board initiated text with
the anticipation of a future revision of Article 8, while
still providing the flexibility that is desired. This
revised language allows an increased number and size of
signage in the commercial and industrial zoning districts by
approval of a special exception, but does not allow signage
that is currently specifically prohibited under the
ordinance. In addition, the revised language sets an upper
limit on the total amount of additional signage that can be
authorized, allowing no more than a doubling of signage.
The Planning Commission held a public hearing on the
proposed revised amendment on April 24, 2008, and
unanimously recommended denial.