Town of St. Joseph, WI
St. Croix County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town Board of the Town of St. Joseph 5-20-1999. Amendments noted where applicable.]
GENERAL REFERENCES

Building construction — See Ch. 80.

Signs for private accesses — See Ch. 150, § 150-3.

Zoning — See Ch. 198.

§ 156-1
Title and purpose. 

§ 156-2
Permit required. 

§ 156-3
Term of permit; renewal. 

§ 156-4
Lapse of permit. 

§ 156-5
Permit fees. 

§ 156-6
Contents of application. 

§ 156-7
Construction standards. 

§ 156-8
Permitted signs. 

§ 156-9
Prohibited signs. 

§ 156-10
Nonconforming signs. 

§ 156-11
District regulations. 

§ 156-12
Motor fuel stations; multiple-occupancy structures. 

§ 156-13
Maintenance. 

§ 156-14
Inspections; right of entry. 

§ 156-15
Violations and penalties. 

§ 156-16
Issuance of permit; variances. 

§ 156-1 Title and purpose.

A. 

This chapter is titled the "Town of St. Joseph Sign Ordinance."

B. 

The Town Board of Supervisors of the Town of St. Joseph, St. Croix County, Wisconsin, does hereby declare that in order to establish, protect and promote the health, public safety and general welfare and the order within the Town it is necessary to establish a comprehensive and impartial series of standards, regulations and procedures governing signs and communicative facilities serving as communication media to persons situated within or upon the public right-of-way. The regulations are intended to encourage an equitable opportunity for effective and orderly communication by reducing confusion and hazards resulting from unnecessary and/or indiscriminate use of communication facilities by regulating the location, design, maintenance and construction of signs within the Town of St. Joseph.

§ 156-2 Permit required.

A. 

Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, no person shall erect, maintain, repair or alter or relocate within the Town any sign as defined herein without first having been issued an appropriate permit therefor and having paid the appropriate permit fee.

B. 

If a sign requiring a permit under the provisions of this chapter is to be placed, constructed, erected or modified, the owner or applicant shall secure a sign permit prior to the placement, construction, erection or modification of such sign in accordance with the requirements of this chapter. The property or sign owner shall maintain in force at all times a sign permit for such sign. The owner of property containing signs requiring a permit under this chapter shall at all times maintain in force a sign permit for such property.

§ 156-3 Term of permit; renewal.

Sign permits shall be issued for a period of one year and shall be renewed annually upon submission of a renewal application and the applicable fees. The renewal application shall indicate that no change in signage has been made or contain a description and application for any changes made.

§ 156-4 Lapse of permit.

A. 

If the work authorized under a sign permit has not been completed within six months after the date of issuance, said permit shall become null and void.

B. 

A continuing sign permit shall lapse automatically if not renewed or if the business license for the premises lapses, is revoked or is not renewed. A sign permit shall also lapse if the business activity of the premises is discontinued for a period of 180 days or more and is not renewed within 30 days of notice from the Town to the last permittee, sent to the last known address of the permittee, that the sign permit will lapse if such activity is not renewed.

§ 156-5 Permit fees.

The fees which shall be charged for permanent and temporary signs and for sign repair or copy replacement under this chapter shall be in accordance with the fee schedule as established by the Town Board.

§ 156-6 Contents of application.

Each application for a permit under this chapter shall be submitted to the Town Clerk or designee on forms provided by the Town and shall include, but not be limited to, the following information:

A. 

The name, address and telephone number of the person for whom the sign is being erected and the name, address and telephone number of the applicant and property owner.

B. 

The name of the person, firm, corporation or association erecting the structure.

C. 

The location and dimensions of the building, structure or lot to which or upon which the sign is to be attached or erected.

D. 

A site plan showing the positioning and height of the sign(s) or other advertising structure in relation to all nearby existing or proposed buildings, structures and property lines, lighting details, a table of the proposed gross sign area for each sign and the total proposed sign area.

E. 

One blueprint or ink drawing of the plan and specifications for the sign, its method of construction and its attachment to the building or in the ground.

[Amended 2-15-2001 by Ord. No. 2001-1]

F. 

Such other information as the Town Clerk or designee requires showing full compliance with this chapter and all other laws and ordinances in the county and state.

§ 156-7 Construction standards.

A. 

No sign permitted by this chapter shall, by reason of its location, color or intensity, create a hazard to the safe, efficient movement of vehicular or pedestrian traffic. No private sign shall contain words which might be construed as traffic controls, such as "Stop," "Caution," "Warning," etc., unless such sign is intended to direct traffic on the premises.

B. 

All signs and sign structures shall be properly maintained and shall be kept in a safe and orderly condition. In addition, all parts and supports shall be properly painted. Any sign or sign structure which is rotted, unsafe, deteriorated, defaced or otherwise altered shall be repainted, repaired or replaced by the licensee, owner or agent of the owner of the property upon which the sign stands upon written notice of the Town Board or its designee.

C. 

No sign shall be attached to hang from any building until all necessary wall and/or roof attachments have been approved by the town.

D. 

No sign, nor any guy wires, stay or attachment thereto, shall be erected, placed or maintained by any person on rocks, fences, trees or utility poles or in such a manner as to interfere with any electric light, power telephone or telegraph wires or the supports thereof.

[Amended 2-15-2001 by Ord. No. 2001-1]

E. 

When electrical signs are installed, the installation shall be subject to the State of Wisconsin Electrical Code, as it may be amended.

F. 

No signs, other than governmental signs, shall be erected or temporarily placed within any street right-of-way or upon any public lands or easements or rights-of-way. Any nonauthorized signs found in these rights-of-way may be immediately confiscated and disposed of without notice.

[Amended 2-15-2001 by Ord. No. 2001-1]

G. 

The temporary use of searchlights, banners, pennants and similar devices shall require a permit. The permit shall be valid for 10 consecutive days. No more than three permits per business proprietor shall be granted during any twelve-month period, and no permit shall be issued within 30 days of the expiration of a previous permit. The permit shall be prominently displayed during the period of validity.

H. 

No part of a sign or sign structure shall be placed closer to any property line than 10 feet.

I. 

A person shall not illuminate any existing advertising device at any time if the existing advertising device is not located at the place of business being promoted, except for reasonably sized directional devices as described in § 156-8A(3) below to aid tourists in finding gas, food and lodging.

J. 

(Reserved)

Editor's Note: Former Subsection J was repealed 2-15-2001 by Ord. No. 2001-1.

K. 

No sign or sign structure shall be erected or maintained so as to prevent free ingress or egress from any door, window or fire escape. No sign or sign structure shall be attached to a standpipe or fire escape.

L. 

Permanent window signage shall not exceed 25% of the total area of the window in which it is displayed. Lettering used in permanent window signage exceeding 31/2 inches in height shall be items of signage permitted on that side of the building.

M. 

All signs as required by the Occupation Hazards Act shall be permitted in all parts of the town.

N. 

If a freestanding sign or sign structure is constructed so that the faces are not constructed so as to be back to back, the angle shall not exceed 10°. If said angle is greater than 10°, the total area of both sides added together shall not exceed the maximum allowable sign area for that district.

O. 

No sign shall be positioned so that it impacts or is exposed to residential uses or districts along adjoining side and rear yard property lines.

P. 

Off-premise signs are not permitted except certain directional signs on private property indicating the direction to a certain business and shall not exceed 32 square feet.

[Added 2-15-2001 by Ord. No. 2001-1]

§ 156-8 Permitted signs.

A. 

The following signs are allowed without a permit but shall comply with all other applicable provisions of this chapter:

(1) 

Public signs. Signs of a public, noncommercial nature, to include safety signs, trespassing signs, traffic signs, signs indicating scenic or historical points of interest, memorial plaques and the like, when signs are erected by order of a public officer or employees in the performance of official duty.

(2) 

Identification signs. Signs in all districts which identify the business, owner, manager or resident and set forth the address of the premises where the sign is located and which contain no other material. There shall be one per premises, not to exceed two square feet in area. If the sign is freestanding, the total height may not exceed five feet.

(3) 

Direction signs (on site). On-site directional signs, not exceeding four square feet in area, intended to facilitate the movement of pedestrians and vehicles within the site upon which such signs are located.

(4) 

Integral signs. Names on buildings, dates of construction, commemorative tablets and the like which are of a permanent type of construction and which are an integral part of the building or the structure.

(5) 

Political campaign signs.

(a) 

State general election years. In a state general election year, the size and duration of a campaign sign display shall comply with the provisions of state election provisions. These signs shall be confined within private property and shall not be less than 15 feet from the nearest edge of the pavement.

(b) 

Other election years. In years when no state general election is taking place, signs announcing candidates seeking public political office and other data pertinent thereto shall be permitted up to a total area of nine square feet for each premises in a residential zone and 32 square feet in an agricultural, commercial or industrial zone. These signs shall be confined within private property and shall not be less than 15 feet from the nearest edge of the pavement and 100 feet from the nearest curb intersection of any street or road. These signs may be displayed 60 days prior to and seven days after the election for which they are intended. In cases where a final election follows within 75 days of a primary election, those candidates who won in the primary election may continue to display their signs during the interim period and up to seven days after the final election.

(6) 

Holiday signs. Signs or displays which contain or depict messages pertaining to a national or state holiday and no other matter and which are displayed for a period not to exceed 30 days.

(7) 

Construction signs. A nonilluminated sign which announces the names of the architect, engineers, contractors or other individuals or firms involved with the construction, alteration or repair of a building (but not including any advertisement of any product) or announces the character of the building enterprise or the purpose for which the building is intended. Such signs shall be confined to the site of the construction, alteration or repair and shall be removed within two years of the date of issuance of the first building permit or when the particular project is completed, whichever is sooner. One sign shall be permitted for each major street the project abuts. No sign may exceed 32 square feet in Ag-Residential or Agricultural Districts or 50 square feet in the Commercial or Industrial Districts.

(8) 

Individual property sale, lease or rental signs. Any on-premises sign announcing the name of the owner, manager, realtor or other person directly involved in the sale or rental of the property or announcing the purpose for which it is being offered.

(a) 

Signs must be removed within 10 days after sale or rental of the property.

(b) 

Signs may not measure more than 12 square feet in Agricultural or Ag-Residential Districts, more than four square feet in Residential Districts or more than 32 square feet in Commercial Districts.

(c) 

There shall be only one sign per property. Corner properties and locations with property abutting two roads, however, may contain two signs, one per frontage.

[Amended 5-1-2003 by Ord. No. 2003-1]

B. 

Garage/rummage sale signs. Garage/rummage sales may be held and signs displayed therefor, provided that the exchange or sale of merchandise is conducted inside or adjacent to the principal or accessory structure and all related signs are confined to the subject property. All related signs shall conform to the applicable provisions of this chapter. Directional and advertising signs shall be freestanding and removed at the termination of the sale. Directional signs placed on private property shall have the owner's permission. Directional signs may not be placed in the road right-of-way.

C. 

Temporary window signs. Temporary window signs shall be permitted within Commercial Districts, provided that they do not exceed 10% of the front building facade.

D. 

Awnings. Awnings that convey a message via alphabetic, numeric or symbolic characters shall be included in calculating the overall signage of the property. The outline of such characters shall be used to determine the area of the awning signage.

[Amended 9-2-1999]

E. 

Temporary signs shall be of a temporary and short-term nature and shall not be permanently mounted. Such signs shall contain no commercial message and shall be no more than two square feet in area.

F. 

Roof signs are permitted, provided that they do not extend beyond the measured height of the building and are in conformance with § 156-11 of this chapter.

§ 156-9 Prohibited signs.

A. 

The following signs are specifically prohibited by this chapter:

(1) 

Any sign that obstructs the vision of drivers or pedestrians or detracts from the visibility of any official traffic control device.

(2) 

Any sign which contains or imitates an official traffic sign or signal, except for private on-premises directional signs.

(3) 

Any sign which moves or rotates.

(4) 

Projecting signs (signs which extend outward from a building).

(5) 

Any sign which contains or consists of banners, pennants, ribbons, streamers, strings of light bulbs, spinners or similar devices, except in the case of temporary use of such devices as described in § 156-7G above.

(6) 

Portable signs (except in the case of § 156-7G above).

(7) 

Signs and/or posters which are tacked onto trees, fences, utility poles or other such permanent supports, except safety signs and signs found on inside fences of baseball parks.

(8) 

Signs which advertise an activity, business, product or service no longer produced or conducted on the premises upon which the sign is located. Where the owner or lessor of the premises is seeking a new tenant, such signs may remain in place for not more than 30 days from the date of vacancy.

(9) 

Temporary window signs used for the purpose of advertising goods and/or services to the extent not permitted in § 156-7C.

(10) 

Signs or symbols made by marking the surface of any road or highway within the Town with paint or any other permanent substance, with the exception of governmental agencies or their agents for purpose of traffic safety, construction or for the marking of underground hazards to construction.

[Added 2-15-2001 by Ord. No. 2001-1]

B. 

No sign shall display any moving parts, nor shall it be illuminated with any flashing or intermittent lights, nor shall it be animated. Time and temperature signs that also provide public service information are exempted. All displays shall be shielded to prevent any light from being directed at oncoming traffic. No device shall be illuminated in such a manner as to interfere with or obscure an official traffic sign or signal. This includes indoor signs that are visible from public streets.

C. 

Vehicles regularly and customarily used for the transportation of persons or property, with a sign, shall not be parked within public view without significant movement for more than 10 days.

§ 156-10 Nonconforming signs.

A. 

The following are nonconforming signs in existence at the time of initial chapter enforcement:

(1) 

Advertising signs. (Exceptions: Temporary window signs and signs which advertise nonprofit corporations.) Said signs shall be limited to the sizes and restrictions imposed within the zoning district in which the use is located and the other applicable provisions of this chapter.

(2) 

Prohibited signs.

(3) 

Other signs. All other signs not prohibited that do not conform to the provisions of the chapter.

B. 

General provisions governing nonconforming signs.

(1) 

A nonconforming sign may not be:

(a) 

Changed to another nonconforming sign.

(b) 

Structurally altered except to bring it into compliance with the provisions of this chapter.

(c) 

Expanded.

(d) 

Reestablished after its discontinuance for 14 days.

(e) 

Repaired or otherwise rehabilitated except to bring it into compliance after damage of more than 50% of the sign market value.

(2) 

If any property use or business changes ownership, all signs on that property, including any sign identifying a business no longer in existence, shall be brought into conformance within 30 days.

(3) 

All nonconforming and prohibited signs created by this chapter shall be removed or brought into conformity with this chapter within the following time periods:

(a) 

Any sign in violation of § 156-9, Prohibited signs: one year.

(b) 

For all other nonconforming signs: two years from the date of the enactment of this chapter.

(4) 

Nonconforming sign maintenance and repair. Nothing in this chapter shall be construed as relieving the owner or user of a legal nonconforming sign or owner of the property on which the legal nonconforming sign is located from the provisions of this chapter regarding safety, maintenance and repair of signs; provided, however, that any repainting, cleaning and other normal maintenance or repair of the sign or sign structure shall not modify the sign structure or copy in any way which makes it more nonconforming or the sign shall lose its legal nonconforming status.

(5) 

Updating nonconforming signs. Any person requesting to update a sign on a premises that contains legally nonconforming signage must, as part of the update, bring 20% of the existing signage into conformity.

C. 

Nonconforming uses. In cases where a use is legally nonconforming based upon the Town or county zoning ordinance, all existing or proposed signs shall be considered conforming if they are in compliance with the sign provisions for the most restrictive zoning district in which the use is allowed.

D. 

A sign that was constructed, painted, installed or maintained in conformance with a permit under this chapter but for which the permit has lapsed or has not been renewed or for which the time allowed for the continuance of a nonconforming sign has expired shall be forthwith removed without notice or action from the town.

§ 156-11 District regulations.

A. 

Exclusive Agriculture District, General Agriculture District or Rural Residential RR-4 or RR-8 (Ag-Residential or One/Two-Family Residential Districts). Only one sign per principal use may be erected on the subject property. This may be either:

(1) 

Freestanding: not more than 32 square feet nor higher than six feet; or

(2) 

Wall, canopy or marquee: not more than 18 square feet nor higher than the top of the parapet wall or eave.

B. 

Neighborhood Commercial [Residential/Business and Neighborhood Business Districts (Houlton and Burkhardt)]. Only two signs per principal use may be erected on the subject property, subject to the following conditions:

(1) 

Freestanding: not more than 32 square feet nor higher than eight feet; or

(2) 

Wall, canopy or marquee: not more than 40 square feet nor higher than the top of the parapet wall or eave.

C. 

Editor's Note: Amended at time of adoption of Code (see Ch. 1, General Provisions, Art. I).
Commercial and Industrial Districts. Only two signs per principal use may be erected on the subject property, except on corner lots, which may have two wall signs, subject to the following conditions:

(1) 

Only one freestanding sign will be permitted with a maximum 100 square feet or 15% of the front building facade, whichever of the two is less. The freestanding sign will not exceed a height of 30 feet.

(2) 

Only one sign on a wall, canopy or marquee will be permitted, with a maximum area of 150 square feet or 15% of the front building facade, whichever of the two is less. Signage consisting of individually outlined alphabetic, numeric and symbolic characters without background, except that provided by the building surface, may be increased by the 25% of the allowable sign area, provided that it does not exceed 150 square feet. An individual sign may not exceed the height of the parapet wall or eave.

(3) 

On a corner lot, each facade facing a public right-of-way may have one wall sign. Both the front and side facade may be counted when determining sign area. Total area of both signs shall not exceed the requirements established in Subsection C(2) above.

§ 156-12 Motor fuel stations; multiple-occupancy structures.

The following regulations refer to certain signs in all appropriate zoning districts unless otherwise specified.

A. 

Motor fuel station. Signs for motor fuel stations shall be regulated by the single-occupancy business structure sign provisions for the zoning district in which the station is located. In addition, motor fuel stations may also display signs which identify current fuel prices and car wash facilities. Said signs shall be limited to a maximum of 16 square feet each and shall be limited to a maximum height of eight feet. This additional sign area, however, shall be counted against the maximum allowable sign area for the subject property.

B. 

Multiple-occupancy business and industrial structures. When a single principal building is devoted to two or more business or industrial uses, a comprehensive plan for the entire structure shall be submitted and shall be of sufficient scope and detail to permit a determination as to whether or not the plan is consistent with the following regulations. Said plan shall be subject to the review and approval of the Town Board. No permit shall be issued for an individual use except upon determination that it is consistent with the approved comprehensive sign plan. The effect of said comprehensive sign plan is to allow and require the owner of a multiple-occupancy structure to determine the specific individual sign requirements for the tenants of the structure. As sign locations and size, etc., may be of significant importance in lease arrangements between the owner and tenant, it is the town's intention to establish general requirements for the overall structure only, thus providing the building owner with both the flexibility and responsibility to negotiate with individual tenants on their specific sign needs.

(1) 

The maximum individual sign sizes for multiple-occupancy structures and individual uses which may display signs shall not exceed the maximum provisions for single- or double-occupancy structures in the same zoning district.

(2) 

Multiple-occupancy structures may display an area identification sign consistent with the applicable district provisions in § 156-11 of this chapter. Individual freestanding signs identifying the tenant's business shall not be displayed.

(3) 

Except as provided in Subsection B(4) below, individual tenants of multiple-occupancy structures shall not display separate identification signs unless the tenant's business has an exclusive exterior entrance. The number of signs shall be limited to one per entrance, and each sign shall be limited to the maximum wall size sign permitted in the district. Said signs shall be located only on exterior walls which are directly related to the use being identified.

(4) 

In any multiple-occupancy structure qualifying as a shopping center, directory signs shall be permitted for each common public entrance. Each directory sign area shall not exceed a total of 50 square feet and shall be located within 50 feet of the common public entrance being served. The size of individual business identification signage within the directory shall be resolved during the site plan review process. Attention shall be given to the possible number of tenant or occupancy bays which may be served by the common public entrance for which the directory sign is intended.

§ 156-13 Maintenance.

All signs, together with all of their supports, braces, guys and anchors, shall be kept in repair and in a proper state of preservation. The display surfaces of all signs shall be kept neatly painted or posted at all times. Every sign and the immediate surrounding premises shall be maintained by the owner or person in charge thereof in a clean, sanitary and inoffensive condition and free and clear of all obnoxious substances, rubbish and weeds. Notice shall be given to the Town Board of any change in sign user, sign owner or owner of the property on which the sign is located.

§ 156-14 Inspections; right of entry.

All signs for which a permit is required shall be subject to inspection by the Town Board or its designated agent. The Board or its designated agent is hereby authorized to enter upon any property or premises to ascertain whether the provisions of this chapter are being obeyed. Such entrance shall be made during business hours unless an emergency exists. The Board or its designated agent may order the removal of any sign that is not maintained in accordance with the maintenance provisions of this chapter.

§ 156-15 Violations and penalties.

Any violation or attempted violation of this chapter or of any condition or requirement adopted pursuant hereto may be restrained, corrected or abated by appropriate proceedings.

A. 

No person, corporation or organization shall construct or install any sign which violates any provision of this chapter. Any person, corporation or organization who or which fails to comply with the provisions of this chapter shall forfeit $100 for the violation, plus the costs of prosecution for the violation.

B. 

If the violation is not corrected within 10 working days of notice of violation, said person, corporation or organization shall forfeit $25 plus the costs of prosecution for the violation for each day a violation exists or continues. Each day shall constitute a separate offense. The Town of St. Joseph may institute appropriate action or proceedings to enjoin a violation of this chapter or to require any person, corporation or organization to comply with this chapter.

§ 156-16 Issuance of permit; variances.

A. 

Permit issued if application in order. It shall be the duty of the Zoning Administrator, upon the filing of an application for a permit, to examine such plans, specifications and other data and the premises upon which it is proposed to erect the sign. If it shall appear that the proposed structure is in compliance with all the requirements of this chapter and all other laws and ordinances of the Town of St. Joseph, the permit shall then be issued. If the work authorized under a permit has not been completed within six months after the date of issuance, the permit shall be null and void.

B. 

Variances. In order to provide additional flexibility in the enforcement of this chapter and to alleviate hardship and injustice, the Town Board may, upon application, grant a variance from the terms of this chapter. Upon application therefor from the person seeking a permit for the erection or installation of a sign, the request for variance shall be processed in accordance with applicable provisions of the St. Croix County Zoning Ordinance, as it may be amended. Additionally, the Town Board shall make a finding of fact that an undue hardship or injustice would exist if a variance were not granted and, therefore, may grant such variations based upon consideration of the following:

(1) 

That particular physical surroundings, shape or topographical conditions of the specific parcel of land involved exist so that strict adherence to the standards of this chapter would not allow a sign to be effective or would significantly reduce the effectiveness of a sign due to reduced visibility or other reason.

(2) 

That the condition involved is unique to the particular parcel of land involved.

(3) 

That the purpose of the variance is not based exclusively upon a desire to increase the value of income potential of the business involved.

(4) 

That the alleged difficulty or hardship is caused by this chapter and has not been created by any persons presently having an interest in the parcel.

(5) 

That the granting of the variance will not be detrimental to the public welfare or injurious to other land or improvements in the neighborhood.

(6) 

That the proposed variance will not impair an adequate supply of light and air to adjacent property or substantially increase the congestion of the public streets or interfere with the function of the Police and Fire Departments of the town.

C. 

Fees. A fee for the review and processing of sign permit variance requests shall be charged in accordance with a resolution by the Town Board.