[HISTORY: Adopted by the Common Council of the City of Middletown 9-8-1980 (Ch. 91 of the 1971 Code). Amendments noted where applicable.]
Editor's Note: This chapter also repealed origional Ch. 91, Signs, adopted 2-23-1953.
This chapter shall be known as the "Sign Ordinance of the City of Middletown, Orange County, New York."
The purpose of this chapter is to promote and protect the public health, welfare and safety by regulating existing and proposed outdoor advertising, outdoor advertising signs and outdoor signs of all types. It is intended to protect property values, to create a more attractive economic and business climate, to enhance and protect the physical appearance of the community and to provide a more enjoyable and pleasing community. It is further intended hereby to reduce the sign or advertising distractions and obstructions that may contribute to traffic accidents, to reduce hazards that may be caused by signs overhanging or projecting over public rights-of-way and to curb the deterioration of the community environment.
The provisions of this chapter shall govern the construction, alteration, repair and maintenance of all signs and outdoor display structures, together with their appurtenant and auxiliary devices, in respect to appearance and structural and fire safety. Toward implementing the above purposes, it should be noted that:
Signs should be a subordinate part of the streetscape rather than the dominant features. Properly designed signs can add interest to building facades without overpowering them.
Projecting signs, except as outlined herein, and roof signs shall be prohibited.
Standard approved methods of constant illumination shall be permitted on ground signs and wall signs; provided, however, that they shall concentrate the illumination upon the area of the sign so as to prevent direct glare upon the street or adjacent residential property. Flashing and revolving signs are prohibited, nor shall any signs contain intermittent or moving illumination, except for clocks and customary time and temperature devices.
Except for holiday seasons or grand openings as approved by the Commissioner of Public Works or his designee, no sign or part thereof shall consist of pennants, ribbons, streamers, spinners or other similar moving, fluttering or revolving devices.
A sign shall not be suspended from or attached to an awning.
All ground signs shall be designed according to generally accepted engineering practice to withstand wind pressure applied to the projected exposed area, allowing for wind from any direction of 75 pounds per square foot.
Signs noting that a property has been sold must be removed at or before taking title.
To the extent possible, adjacent wall signs on the same or adjoining buildings should be placed within the same horizontal band and be of reasonably harmonious materials and colors.
Adjacent freestanding signs should be of the same height from the ground and should be as low as practical.
All signs should be as small and discreet as possible.
The number of signs should be limited to as few as practical.
Lettering should be as small as possible but shall not exceed two feet in height. The sign should have as few words as possible.
All signs shall be incidental, customary to and commonly associated with the principal use.
Garish colors, lights or materials should be avoided. Whenever possible, natural material such as wood or iron should be utilized.
For the purpose of this chapter and any other pertinent laws and regulations, the following words and phrases shall have the meanings respectively ascribed to them by this section:
- A roof-like covering of canvas or duck attached to a metal frame and attached to or supported entirely from a building.
- A sign which directs attention to a business, commodity, service or entertainment conducted, sold or offered elsewhere than upon the lot or building on which such sign is situated.
- FRONT FACE
- The outer surface of a building which fronts on any private or public street.
- GROUND OR FREESTANDING SIGN
- A sign supported by uprights or braces in or upon the ground and not attached to any part of a building.
- ILLUMINATED SIGN
- Any sign illuminated by electricity, gas or other artificial light, including reflective or phosphorescent light.
- INTERIOR SIGN
- Any sign that is affixed to or painted on the interior of a window or any sign located within three feet of the inside face of the window, which sign is designed to be visible from the exterior of the window.
- MARQUEE SIGN
- A sign attached to a marquee, canopy or other covered structure projecting from and supported by the building.
- OVERHANGING SIGN
- A sign designed to project beyond the front face and perpendicular to it.
- Any person, firm, corporation, partnership, association, company, institution or organization of any kind.
- REAL ESTATE SIGN
- A temporary sign pertaining to the sale, rental or lease of the premises on which the sign is displayed.
- ROOF SIGN
- A sign which is erected, constructed or maintained on, above or as part of the roof of any building.
- Any structure or part thereof or any device attached to a building, pole, tree, structure or device or painted or represented thereon, which shall display or include any letter, word, model, banner, pennant, insignia, device, trade flag, symbol or representation which is in the nature of or which is used as an announcement, direction or advertisement for commercial purposes or otherwise. "Sign" includes any message, neon tube, string of lights or similar device outlining, hung, painted upon or attached to part of a building or lot, but does not include the flag or insignia of any nation or group of nations or of any governmental agency. Excluded from this definition are signs not to exceed four square feet in area, unless they are overhanging.
- SIGN AREA
- Shall be measured as follows:
- A. When such sign is on a plate or framed or outlined, all of the area of such plate or the area enclosed by such frame or outline, including such frame or outline, shall be included.
- B. When such sign consists only of letters, designs or figures engraved, painted, projected or in any manner affixed on a wall, the total area of such sign shall be deemed the area of the smallest triangle, rectangle or circle within which all of the matter of which such sign consists may be inscribed.
- TEMPORARY SIGN
- A sign which is designed to advertise or announce a particular event or series of events or to announce the availability for sale of a particular item or items which will be available for a limited period.
- WALL SIGN
- A sign which is attached directly to the building and is parallel to the building.
Submit all plans to the Commissioner of Public Works (CPW).
Any person feeling aggrieved may appeal to the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) for a variance from such ruling. The Zoning Board of Appeals must act within 60 days.
Each sign application must be accompanied with a permit fee of $50.
[Amended 1-12-1987; 9-27-1993; 12-27-2005]
All signs shall be properly secured, supported and braced and shall be kept in perfect structural condition and clean and well-painted at all times. Every sign, its framework, braces, anchors and other supports shall be constructed of such material and in such workmanlike manner as shall make it safe and satisfactory to the Commissioner of Public Works or his designee. Signs shall not block fire-fighting operations.
Application for the permit shall be made to the Commissioner of Public Works or his designee, in writing, upon forms prescribed and provided by the Commissioner of Public Works or his designee and shall contain the following data:
The name, address and telephone number of the applicant.
The location of the building, structure and/or land to which or upon which the sign is to be erected.
A detailed drawing or blueprint, showing a description of the construction details of the sign and showing the lettering and/or pictorial matter composing the sign; position of lighting or other extraneous devices and weight; a location plan showing the position of the sign on any building or land; and its position in relation to nearby buildings or structures and to any private or public street or highway.
Written consent of the owner of the building, structure and/or land to which or on which the sign is to be erected, in the event that the applicant is not the owner thereof.
Such other pertinent information as the Commissioner of Public Works or his designee may require to ensure compliance with this chapter.
An illuminated sign must be underwritten by an approved testing firm and must be wired by a licensed electrician.
The owner of the structure and/or land to which or on which any sign is erected shall be required to save harmless the City of Middletown of any damage or claim arising out of the enforcement of this chapter.
Editor's Note: Former Subsections D and E, which immediately followed this subsection and which dealt with referral to the Planning Board and Planning Board fees, were repealed 9-27-1993.
Any person feeling himself aggrieved by the decision of the Commissioner of Public Works or his designee upon any application for a permit for any sign as provided in § 394-4 may appeal to the Zoning Board of Appeals for a variance from such ruling or decision. The Zoning Board of Appeals may affirm, reverse or modify such ruling or decision of the Commissioner of Public Works or his designee within 60 days.
Every decision of the Board shall, however, be subject to review as provided in Article 78 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules. Such appeal may be taken by any person aggrieved or by an officer, department, board or bureau of the City.
Editor's Note: Original § 91-6, Issuance of sign construction permit, which immediately followed this section, was repealed 9-27-1993.
If the Commissioner of Public Works or his designee shall find that any sign regulated herein is unsafe or insecure or is a menace to the public or has been erected in violation of the provisions of this chapter, he shall give written notice to the permittee thereof. If the permittee fails to move or alter the sign so as to comply with the standards herein set forth within 14 days after such notice, such sign may be removed or altered to comply by the Commissioner of Public Works or his designee, at the expense of the permittee or owner of the property on which it is located. The Commissioner of Public Works or his designee shall refuse to issue a permit to any permittee or owner who refuses to pay costs so assessed. The Commissioner of Public Works or his designee may cause any sign which is an immediate peril to persons or property to be removed summarily and without notice.
Any existing sign, except those which are directly painted onto the face of a building, which pertains to an activity no longer in existence shall be removed by the owner of the property within 30 days from the time the activity ceases existence. This provision does not apply to seasonal activities during the regular periods in which they are closed.
If the owner fails to remove or cause to be removed such sign within 30 days after written notice by the Commissioner of Public Works or his designee, the Commissioner of Public Works or his designee is authorized to remove such sign and to assess the cost of such removal to the property owners, and such charge shall be as a lien on said property.
A sign illuminated by electricity or equipped in any way with electric devices or appliances shall conform, with respect to wiring and appliances, to the regulations of the New York Board of Fire Underwriters and shall bear an underwriter's stamp and also shall be wired by a licensed electrician.
No signs shall be illuminated by gas.
Signs self-illuminated from within. All wiring shall be self-enclosed in armored cable.
Ground or freestanding signs shall be permitted only if the sign is set back at least 15 feet from the front property line or 1/2 the distance from the curbline and the front of the building. Only one such sign shall be permitted for each street frontage of a business structure and shall be set back at least 15 feet from the property line. The top of such sign shall be no higher than 15 feet from the ground, and the sign shall be no larger than 24 square feet. Such signs are limited to pole signs affixed to at least a single pole with no guy wire or bracing. All ground signs shall be located within the property line, and the location and illumination of such shall not block the view of or otherwise interfere with official traffic signs and signals or other permitted signs.
A freestanding sign to identify the occupants of a medical clinic or professional office building shall be permitted in any district where such uses are permitted under Chapter 475, Zoning. It may be erected with two poles, as long as all other requirements of this section are satisfied. Signs shall be constructed in such fashion so as not to interfere with the flow or view of traffic.
Freestanding signs shall be permitted as downtown business directories at strategic locations. The sign standard shall be no higher than 10 feet from the ground and no larger than 24 square feet in area on a single face. The individual placards shall be no larger than three inches in height and 12 inches wide. Said signs shall only be permitted to be erected by a businessmen's association or similar organization. No more than one such directory will be permitted on any given street corner. Once a standard design is established by an organization, all future directories shall conform to that design.
An interior sign or combination of signs, temporary or permanent, shall not cover more than 50% of each window upon which or in which it is affixed, displayed or painted.
Signs shall not be permitted on any marquee, other than signs built into and forming a part of the structure of the marquee. Such signs shall not exceed a height of three feet and a total area of 21 square feet on any one side of the marquee and shall not extend beyond the edge of the marquee. In addition to the foregoing, only that portion of the marquee containing such sign may be illuminated.
Wall signs, as defined in this chapter, shall be attached to the face of the building in a plane parallel to such face. Such sign shall not extend or project more than eight inches from the face of the building. Any such sign which overhangs any publicly owned property shall be insured in accordance with § 394-15. Any such sign shall not extend higher than the top of the parapet in case of one-story buildings, and in the case of other buildings, they shall not extend above the sill of the windows of the second story nor extend more than 15 feet above the outside grade. No wall sign or combination of signs on any single frontage in a business district shall exceed an area equivalent to 100% of the linear length of the structure on such frontage or a maximum of 50 square feet, whichever is less. Where an establishment for which signs are permitted has a rear entrance on a public way or parking lot or frontage on two or more streets, such as a corner, signs shall be permitted on each frontage, up to the maximum permitted for that frontage. (Examples of permitted sign size: a store with a twenty-foot frontage will be permitted a sign or signs up to a total of 20 square feet. If the store has a frontage of 50 feet, it would be permitted a sign or signs up to a maximum of 50 square feet. Where an establishment is a corner structure, with twenty-foot frontages, up to 20 square feet of sign would be permitted in each frontage.) Wall signs shall not cover wholly or partially any wall opening, including doors, fire escapes and windows, nor project beyond the ends of the wall to which it is attached. All such signs must be safely and adequately attached to said building wall by means satisfactory to the Commissioner of Public Works or his designee. Within an industrial district, one sign not exceeding 100 square feet is permitted for each street frontage from which access is provided to the lot.
Each establishment in a business district shall be permitted one overhanging sign which shall project not more than 48 inches from the perpendicular face of the building and shall not exceed 10 square feet in area. Such signs shall be limited to frontage on public streets and mall areas. All overhanging signs shall be constructed of such material and in such workmanlike manner as shall make them safe and satisfactory to the Commissioner of Public Works or his designee. The bottom of such sign shall be a minimum of nine feet or a maximum of 12 feet above the sidewalk and shall not extend beyond the curbline or into any areas which are accessible to service or emergency vehicles or interfere with fire fighting. Any such sign which overhangs any publicly owned property shall be insured in accordance with § 394-15.
[Amended 9-27-1993; 4-1-2001]
Definitions. For the purposes of this section, the following words have the meanings respectively ascribed to them except where the context clearly indicates a different meaning:
- BUILDING LOT
- Any piece or parcel of land or a portion of a subdivision, the boundaries of which have been established by some legal instrument of record that is recognized and intended as a unit for the purposes of transfer of ownership.
- To erect, attach, or affix in any manner, including, without limitation, nailing, tacking, gluing, pasting, painting, staking, marking or writing.
- PUBLIC RIGHT-OF-WAY
- The entire area between property boundaries which is owned by a government, dedicated to public use, or impressed with an easement for public use, which is primarily used for pedestrian or vehicular travel, and which is publicly maintained, in whole or in part, for such use, and includes, without limitation, the street, gutter, curb, shoulder, sidewalk, sidewalk area, parking or parking strip and any public way.
- REAL ESTATE SIGN
- A sign indicated the availability for sale, rent or lease of the specific lot, building or portion of a building upon which the sign is posted.
- Any writing, pictorial representation, illustration, decoration (including any material used to differentiate sign copy from its background), landscaping form, emblem, symbol, design, trademark, banner, flag, pennant, captive balloon, streamer, spinner, ribbon, sculpture, statute, or any other figure or character that:
- (1) Is a structure or any part thereof (including the roof or wall of a building); or
- (2) Is written, printed, projected, painted, constructed or otherwise placed or displayed upon or designated into landscaping or a structure or a board, plate, canopy, awning, marquee or vehicle, or upon any material object or device whatsoever; and
- (3) By reason of its form, color, wording, symbol, design, illumination, or motion attracts or is designed to attract attention to the subject thereof or is used as a means of identification, advertisement, or announcement or political or artistic expression or decoration; but
- (4) Landscaping constitutes a sign only to the extent that it is planted, trimmed, graded, arranged or installed in such a manner as to convey an explicit commercial message.
- TEMPORARY SIGN
- A sign which is designed to advertise or announce a particular
event or series of events or to announce the availability for sale
of a particular item or items which will be available for a limited
period excluding yard sales or garage sales.[Amended 9-15-2015]
Temporary signs permitted in all zones. Temporary signs may be posted on properties in all zones, without obtaining a permit, except for those signs falling within the purview of Subsection C of this section. Temporary signs are subject to the following requirements and all other applicable provisions stated in this chapter.
The total square footage for temporary signs posted on a building in an R-1 Zone, in the aggregate, shall not exceed 12 square feet.
No temporary sign shall obstruct or impair access to a public sidewalk, public or private street or driveway, traffic control sign, bus stop, fire hydrant, or any other type of street sign or otherwise create a hazard, including a tripping hazard.
A temporary sign shall be designed to be stable under all weather conditions, including high winds.
No temporary sign shall be illuminated or painted with light-reflecting paint.
A temporary sign shall only be posted with the consent of the property owner or occupant.
A temporary sign may be posted for a period of up to 60 days, at which time the sign shall be removed or replaced.
Authorization required for posting of temporary signs in public right-of-way. Temporary signs shall not be posted in the public rights-of-way without obtaining a permit for such posting from the Department of Public Works pursuant to the City of Middletown's policy regarding the posting of signs in the public right-of-way. This restriction includes the posting of temporary signs on trees, utility poles and other structures within the rights-of-way.
Removal requirements for temporary signs connected to an event. In addition to the requirements stated above, temporary signs shall comply with the following requirements: all temporary signs which are connected to an event, including those announcing special events to occur on one or more particular dates, shall be removed within 14 days of the conclusion of the sale or event that the sign is promoting.
Real estate signs. Real estate signs shall be for the sole purpose of advertising the sale of the premises upon which the sign is located.
Removal or replacement of signs.
The person who has posted or directed the posting of a temporary sign is responsible for the removal or replacement of that sign in accordance with this section.
If that person does not remove or replace the temporary sign in accordance with this section, then the property owner or occupant of the building lot where the sign is posted is responsible for the sign's removal or replacement.
The Department of Public Works is authorized to remove any temporary signs posted in violation of this section that are not removed or replaced in accordance with the provisions above. Temporary signs posted on private property in violation of this section shall be deemed a public nuisance.
The Department of Public Works may immediately remove temporary signs posted on public property or rights-of-way in violation of this section and file a civil complaint against the person who posted the sign to recover the cost of removing the sign.
Variance. Any person seeking adjustments to the application of this section to the posting of a temporary sign shall file an application with the Zoning Board of Appeals as if the applicant were seeking an area variance in accordance with Chapter 475, Zoning.
Penalties. Any person who violates any provision of this section shall be guilty of a violation and shall be subject to a fine not to exceed $250 for each offense or by imprisonment for a period not exceeding 15 days, or by both such fine and imprisonment. Each day that a violation is permitted to exist shall constitute a separate offense. The City may also seek injunctive relief to prevent the continued violation of this chapter.
For any sign erected in the City of Middletown which requires the issuance of a permit, there shall be furnished to the City of Middletown a certificate from an insurance company duly licensed by the State of New York and subject to the approval of the corporation counsel certifying that the owner of the premises and/or the tenant of the premises responsible for the affixing, painting or erecting of a sign has in force and effect a policy of general liability insurance in a minimum amount of $100,000/$300,000 covered for bodily injury and $50,000 for property damage. The cancellation of this policy shall effect a cancellation of any sign permit issued by the City of Middletown.
Where a sign shall be erected within the City of Middletown and said sign shall, in whole or in part, encroach upon a public street, public highway or public right-of-way, the owner of the premises or the owner of said sign or signs shall furnish to the City of Middletown a public liability policy as provided for in Subsection A above, and in addition, said policy shall name the City of Middletown as an additional named assured.
In addition to the insurance required in Subsections A and B above, the acceptance of a permit by an applicant shall be deemed agreement by the applicant that the applicant shall indemnify and hold harmless the City of Middletown from any and all damages, judgments, costs and expenses which said City may incur arising from the erection, alteration, repair, relocation, reconstruction or use of any such sign.
Temporary and/or banner signs. The requirement of insurance set forth in the foregoing subsections, as well as the requirements of indemnification, shall apply equally to temporary signs or banners and upon the same terms and conditions.
Editor's Note: Original § 91-17, Exemptions, which immediately followed this section and was amended 9-27-1993, was deleted 8-12-2002.
Any sign of a type not permitted by this chapter or which exceeds the maximum size permitted herein by 10% at the time of adoption of this chapter shall be a nonconforming use.
A nonconforming sign shall not be enlarged and shall be removed if the Commissioner of Public Works or his designee declares it unsafe. The relettering, painting or decorating of such signs shall be permitted, but any sign once removed for purposes other than relettering, painting or decorating shall be deemed permanently removed and may be replaced only in accordance with the provisions of this chapter.
Any sign legally erected and legally existing which becomes a nonconforming sign as a result of the enactment of this chapter or as a result of any amendment thereof shall be a nonconforming use.
Criminal. Any person who violates any provision of this chapter shall be guilty of a violation and shall be subject to a fine not to exceed $250 for each offense or by imprisonment for a period not exceeding 15 days, or by both such fine and imprisonment. Each day that a violation is permitted to exist shall constitute a separate offense.
[Amended 2-11-2008; 11-15-2010]
Civil. In addition to the criminal penalties prescribed above, the City shall have the power to institute mandamus, injunction or other proceedings or civil actions, in any court of competent jurisdiction, against persons violating the provisions of this chapter, and persons found to be in violation of the provisions of this chapter in such civil actions or proceedings shall be liable for damages, including the legal and other costs and fees resulting from or attendant upon such actions or proceedings, as well as the costs and fees incurred by the City and/or its officers, employees, servants and agents in removing or altering signs found to be in violation.