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Village of Elm Grove, WI
Waukesha County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[Amended 4-22-2003; 3-27-2007; 4-27-2010]
A. 
The purpose of this article is to promote public safety by eliminating improperly located and poorly constructed or maintained signs; to avoid the depreciation of property values; to promote compatibility with surrounding land uses while allowing the expression of the identities of individual properties; and to preserve the beauty and attractiveness of the Village of Elm Grove as a whole.
B. 
Legislative findings. The Village Board of Trustees hereby determines that:
(1) 
For reasons of traffic safety considerations, not all publicly accessible locales constitute a public forum for First Amendment purposes.
(2) 
On-premises and off-premises signs should be allowed where an appropriate relationship exists between the location and the use of a sign.
[Amended 4-26-2011; 8-23-2011]
A. 
No sign shall hereafter be located, erected, moved, reconstructed, extended, enlarged, converted or structurally altered without conforming to the provisions of this chapter.
B. 
Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to prevent the erection, construction, alteration, placement, maintenance or location of nondiscretionary signs, devices and markings of the state, Village or other governmental authority or the posting of notices required by law.
C. 
All signs shall be constructed of such a material and posted so as to remain in place under all weather conditions which are reasonably likely to occur during the time which the sign is posted.
D. 
Prohibited signs. The following types of outdoor signs are prohibited in the Village:
(1) 
All moving, rotating, flashing or pulsating signs, except for electronic message boards as provided for in § 335-41D(3) and those signs which only give information of time and temperature and which are not closer than 750 feet to another time and/or temperature sign.
(2) 
All portable signs, as defined in Article XII of this chapter, are prohibited within the Village of Elm Grove.
(3) 
Electronic message board.
(a) 
Electronic message board (EMB), as used in this subsection, means a sign which allows the changing of the content of the display area by electronic or programming means without the altering of any physical surface.
(b) 
An EMB may be permitted for business or institutional zoned frontage on Bluemound Road, Pilgrim Parkway, and Wall Street at any point greater than 220 feet east from the center line of the right of way of Elm Grove Road for freestanding and permanent ground signage only, with the following requirements:
[Amended 3-26-2013; 7-23-2013]
[1] 
The electronically changeable area of the EMB may not exceed 30% of the total sign area as defined in § 335-94.
[2] 
An EMB must occupy a secondary position to the name of the business or tenant where placed.
[3] 
An EMB must display static images only. Flashing, blinking, moving or other distracting features are prohibited.
[4] 
Text or images, or any portions thereof, on an EMB may change up to, but not more frequently than once every 30 seconds.
[5] 
A message/image on a EMB shall not flash, scroll, twirl or otherwise move when changing.
[6] 
An EMB must be placed and illuminated in a manner so as to not interfere with, confuse or present any hazard to traffic.
[7] 
An EMB may only be used to advertise business activities, that occur on the property where located.
[8] 
Display of EMB’s shall follow § 335-48B(4).
A. 
Development and contractor signs. For purposes of this chapter, the term "development sign" shall mean any sign used to identify a future residential or nonresidential development project or a development project that is currently under construction. The term "contractor sign" means any sign giving the name or names of principal contractors, subcontractors, architects and lending institutions responsible for construction or landscaping on the site where the sign is placed, together with other pertinent information included thereon.
(1) 
A development project may have one development sign on each street that the development abuts. Each sign must be placed on the property being developed.
(2) 
No development sign may exceed eight feet in height or 32 square feet in area. This sign may be single- or double-faced and may be perpendicular or parallel to the street.
(3) 
Contractors, subcontractors, architects and/or lending institutions shall consolidate their signs into one sign having a maximum height of six feet and a maximum sign area of 32 square feet upon obtaining a permit from the Building Board.
(4) 
All development signs shall be removed upon the earliest of:
(a) 
The expiration of the permit.
(b) 
Seven days after the issuance of an occupancy permit.
(c) 
Ninety percent of the units of a residential development having been sold or rented.
(5) 
Contractor signs must be removed upon the earliest of the following:
(a) 
Seven days after the issuance of an occupancy permit;
(b) 
Completion of the work by the contractor, subcontractor or architect referenced in the sign; or
(c) 
Completion of the work financed by the lending institution referenced in the sign.
B. 
Demolition and construction code of conduct signs required.
(1) 
For purposes of this chapter, the term "code of conduct sign" shall mean the sign approved by the Village Board of Trustees and obtained from the Zoning Administrator to notify contractors, subcontractors, and materialmen of applicable provisions of this Code of Ordinances pertaining to operation and maintenance sites involving the demolition, construction, and/or remodeling of the exterior of any structure or building in the Village.
(2) 
All persons applying for demolition and/or building permits for the demolition, construction, or remodeling of the exterior of any structure or building within the Village shall purchase a code of conduct sign from the Zoning Administrator at the fee established from time to time by the Village Board of Trustees prior to issuance of any building permit.
(3) 
The code of conduct sign required under this subsection shall be posted in the ground no closer than seven feet to the roadway pavement edge and driveway, and no farther than 15 feet from the roadway pavement edge and driveway, in such a manner as to be clearly visible from the driveway and roadway. The code of conduct shall be prominently displayed in this manner throughout the time any demolition and/or building permit is required to be displayed under this Code of Ordinances.
(4) 
The requirement for purchase and posting of a code of conduct sign may be waived by the Zoning Administrator in writing based on the Zoning Administrator finding that proposed construction or remodeling cannot reasonably be anticipated to cause a disturbance to occupants of neighboring residential property or obstruct, damage, or cause material to be deposited on Village streets.
A. 
Permits required. A permit shall be required for all signs, except for those which do not require a permit pursuant to this chapter.
(1) 
A signed authorization to erect a sign from the building owner, if the applicant is not the owner, shall be submitted with the permit application, together with the application fee established by the Board of Trustees from time to time by resolution.
(2) 
Considerations in granting permits. In granting a permit to an applicant, the Village Building Board and Zoning Administrator shall consider the purpose of said sign, the effect thereof on the safety of operators of vehicles upon the adjoining streets and highways, the effect thereof with respect to the danger of human life because of their falling or combustibility, and the effect thereof on the security of the premises.
In the event of a change in the sign construction, design or illumination, a permit must be secured and shall be handled in the same manner as an application for a new sign and must meet the requirements of the current sign ordinances.
In the event that a temporary exterior sign shall be in place longer than 15 days, it shall be considered to be a permanent sign, subject to the provisions of this chapter, and penalties shall apply with equal effect as in the case of permanent signs.
A. 
No sign shall be allowed in any residential district of the Village without a permit, except the following:
(1) 
Real estate sign. A single, nonilluminated advertising sign pertaining to the lease or sale of real estate shall be allowed on each fronting public street, provided that such sign(s) does not exceed six square feet in area and is upon real estate so offered for lease or sale. Said sign shall be single- or double-sided. Said sign(s) shall be removed within three days after the closing or 60 days after a sign indicating that there is an accepted offer for such real estate, whichever may occur first.
(2) 
Directory signs indicating an open house may be placed off the premises of real estate for sale or lease during the hours of the open house, provided that said sign(s) comply with all the provisions of this chapter and consent of the property owner where they are placed is first obtained.
(3) 
No Trespass Signs may be placed on real estate in accordance with the requirements of § 943.13, Wis. Stats.
(4) 
Identification and address signs not exceeding two square feet in area.
(5) 
On-premises rummage sale signs, not to exceed two, shall be allowed. Such signs shall not exceed four square feet in area and shall be displayed for no more than 72 hours.
(6) 
Temporary signs, four square feet or less in area not otherwise prohibited by this chapter. There shall not be more than one temporary sign located on any single lot in a residential district at any one time.
(7) 
Political signs, each being six square feet or less in area, subject to the following provision:
(a) 
All political signs on residential properties which address a particular election may remain erected only during the pertinent election campaign period as defined in § 12.04(1)(a) of the Wis. Stats. The person erecting a political sign and the person on whose residential property said signs are erected are jointly responsible for their removal within 10 days following said election.
(8) 
Home security system signs, 1.5 square feet or less in area. There shall be no more than two such signs per property.
B. 
No sign allowed under this section shall be placed less than seven feet from the edge of the street pavement, nor so close to a pedestrian way as to hinder or impede passage. Under no circumstances may a sign be placed in any area between any Village pedestrian pathway and the edge of any street pavement.
A. 
Temporary church function or civic group signs not exceeding two in number advertising civic or church functions shall be permitted on the premises where such function will be held. One of the two signs may be a banner sign only to be hung on the facade of the church or civic building. Such a banner sign may only represent a function directly sponsored by the church or civic group on which the banner is hung. Such signs shall reflect aesthetic compatibility with adjacent uses, be constructed of a suitable material, shall be erected not more than three weeks prior to the event, and shall be removed within 24 hours following the event.
B. 
Off-premises permits for church function, civic group and special event signs may be issued by the Zoning Administrator upon the approval of a proper application.
(1) 
Permit applications must be accompanied by:
(a) 
Certification by the applicant that the owner of the property has given consent to the placement of the sign.
(b) 
Payment of an administration fee.
(c) 
Certification by the applicant that the sign will only be placed on private property.
(d) 
Certification of the date of the advertised event.
(2) 
Shall be limited to a maximum of six off-premises signs for each advertised event.
(3) 
Shall not be displayed without having attached a sticker issued by the Zoning Administrator that a permit has been issued for such sign.
(4) 
Shall not be displayed more than 21 days prior to nor three days after the advertised event.
(5) 
Shall each not exceed four square feet in area, unless the sign is a banner as permitted under § 335-47A.
(6) 
Shall not exceed more than one sign per off-premises lot.
(7) 
Special events as permitted under Chapter 241 of the Village of Elm Grove Code shall be allowed a maximum of two banner signs, provided:
(a) 
A temporary sign permit has been obtained from the Zoning Administrator;
(b) 
The proposed banner does not exceed 32 square feet in area;
(c) 
The placement of the proposed banner is reviewed and approved by the Zoning Administrator or his or her designee to ensure that the signage does not pose a threat to public safety;
(d) 
The special event sponsor has no physical premises in the Village; and
(e) 
A special event permit has been approved and issued by the Village.
A. 
No sign shall be allowed in any nonresidential district of the Village without a permit, except the following:
(1) 
Sale, lease or rent signs. Allowed sign area for nonresidential sale, lease or rent signs is only as follows:
(a) 
Parcels are allowed one sign not exceeding 12 square feet in area as long as there is a vacancy.
(b) 
The height of each nonresidential sale, lease or rent sign may not exceed five feet.
(c) 
Real estate sign pertaining to the lease or sale of real estate, not exceeding 12 square feet in area and located on the real estate offered for sale or lease shall be allowed. Said sign shall be single- or double-sided. Said sign shall be removed within three days after the closing or two weeks after a sign indicating that there is an accepted offer for such real estate, whichever may occur first.
[1] 
Real estate signs exceeding 12 square feet in area shall be allowed upon review and approval from the Building Board.
(2) 
No Trespass Signs may be placed on real estate in accordance with the requirements of § 943.13, Wis. Stats.
(3) 
Temporary window signs posted on the interior side of a window cumulatively occupying not more than 50% of the window area and posted for periods not exceeding 30 days.
(a) 
Permanent window signs reflecting aesthetic compatibility with adjacent uses and cumulatively occupying not more than 50% of the window area. Permanent window signs shall be reviewed and approved by the Building Board. Combined temporary and permanent signs shall not exceed 50% of the window area.
(4) 
Sandwich board signs.
(a) 
"Sandwich board" shall refer to a hinged or unhinged A-frame, movable sign.
(b) 
Only one sandwich board sign is allowed per business. All sandwich board signs shall be moved indoors during nonbusiness hours.
(c) 
All sandwich boards must be displayed within 20 feet of a doorway. Under no circumstance may a sandwich board sign be placed on a public pathway, the area between a pathway and the street, or in a space designated for parking.
(d) 
A sandwich board sign shall be used to display prices, descriptions or business-related messages in relation to the goods or services provided by the business.
(e) 
No sandwich board sign area shall exceed eight square feet on any side or face of the board and shall not exceed four feet from the ground to the top of the sign.
(f) 
If a business chooses to have a temporary sign, it cannot display a sandwich board sign simultaneous with the usage of a temporary sign. Both signs cannot be displayed at the same time. Once the temporary sign is removed, the sandwich board sign can be installed.
(5) 
Utility signs, as defined in Article XII of this chapter, are permitted if approved by the Building Board and found not to endanger the public safety.
(6) 
Political signs, subject to the following provisions:
(a) 
No political sign shall be placed closer than seven feet from the edge of the street pavement nor so close to a pedestrian way as to hinder or impede passage. Under no circumstance may a political sign be placed in any area between any Village pedestrian pathway and the edge of any street pavement.
(b) 
All political signs on nonresidential properties which address a particular election may remain posted no more than 60 days prior to and until 10 days after such election.
(c) 
No political sign placed on nonresidential property shall exceed 16 square feet in area, and the total area of signage of all political signs erected on one nonresidential parcel shall not exceed 80 square feet.
(d) 
All political signs shall be constructed of such a material and posted so as to remain in place under all weather conditions which are reasonably likely to occur during the time which the sign is posted.
B. 
Signs requiring permit. It is the intent of this subsection to establish guidelines for sign allocations predicated on business function, location and adjacent zoning, aesthetic compatibility with building, business center or adjoining businesses, along with the need for public service and information. Various types of signs are required at business establishments to communicate the nature of the business and to give direction on location and services. The following guidelines shall be used by the Building Board to review business sign sizes, height, numbers, type and illumination:
(1) 
Maximum size of signs. The size of allowable signs shall be determined by the Building Board, based on the intent stated in the introductory paragraph of this subsection and the applicable requirements, if any, of this subsection. In the absence of such applicable requirement, the formula to be used in determining maximum size is either one square foot of sign area per one linear foot of building frontage, or one square foot of sign area per 200 square feet of usable building area, whichever is greater. The Building Board shall calculate the sign area of all signs covered by this chapter, and the total sign area for each business or professional location shall not exceed the figure determined by the Building Board.
(2) 
Measuring signs. The Building Board shall include the sign copy and any border or frame surrounding that copy to calculate the area of a sign and determine if it meets the requirement of this chapter. Supporting members of a sign shall be excluded from the calculation of area. The area of irregularly shaped signs or signs containing two or more detached elements shall be determined by the area of the smallest regular polygon that will encompass all elements of the sign. For purposes of this subsection, the terms "area of sign" and "sign area" refer to the surface encompassed within the perimeter of the sign which forms the outside shape of the sign. If a sign contains more than one section or part, all sections and parts shall be included in the total area of the sign. When calculating the area of the sign, it shall be determined by measuring the outside perimeter of the sign. When calculating the area of a sign to determine if it meets the requirements of this chapter, the area shall include the sign copy and any border or frame surrounding that copy. For signs that are double-faced, or have a sign copy on two faces which are back to back and facing in different directions, each sign face may equal the maximum sign area allowed under this subsection. Supporting structures of signs shall not be included in the "area of sign" and "sign area," however, all ornamental elements however attached to the sign shall be included in determining the sign area.
(3) 
Height. A ground sign shall harmonize with the building or activity it advertises or identifies, and no such ground sign shall be more than 20 feet above the average ground elevation of the lot or exceed the height of the building, whichever is lower, except within 50 feet of Bluemound Road where the maximum sign height shall not exceed 25 feet.
(4) 
Sign type, illumination, design and area allotment.
(a) 
The type and amount of illumination is to be approved by the Building Board.
(b) 
Overpowering light levels should not be used.
(c) 
We encourage building facades and identification signs to be illuminated from dusk to 11:00 p.m.
(d) 
No sign shall exceed 60 square feet in area regardless of location, except as stated in § 335-48B(4)(e) of this chapter.
(e) 
Businesses which front on Bluemound Road may be allowed up to 1.5 times the sign area normally designated for their category at the discretion of the Building Board.
(f) 
Only one projecting hanging sign shall be allowed per business establishment. Wall-mounted and hanging signs will be allowed as approved by the Building Board.
(g) 
Uniform sign format for Business Centers.
[Amended 8-24-2015]
[1] 
Business Centers of four or more tenants shall have a uniform sign format to be approved by the Building Board, concurrent with the site plan. In addition to fulfilling all the requirements of this chapter, the uniform sign format shall include the following components:
[a] 
An aesthetically developed theme.
[b] 
The proposed locations and an example rendering of all Permanent Signs to be located on the building, including Exterior Signs and Projecting Signs. Where possible all Exterior Signs and Projecting Signs shall be centered over the business establishment.
[c] 
If proposed for the Business Center, the application shall include the location of the center identification Ground Sign and directory Utility Signs. Utility Signs shall not count towards the total allowable Sign area.
[d] 
Each business within the center shall be allocated a Sign area to conform with the requirements under Subsection B(1) above. Each business Sign within the center shall contribute a proportionate share of its Sign allocation toward the center identification or directory sign.
[e] 
Each business within the center shall be allowed one Exterior Sign and one Hanging Sign.
[f] 
The sign area allotments listed above are considered the maximum allowable per business unit and may be reduced at the owner's option or upon the Building Board's recommendation when inappropriate for a specific reason or business activity.
[g] 
When a change is proposed for a Sign located within a business center with an approved uniform sign format, the proposed change shall be required to conform to the requirements of the business center's uniform sign format. An application to change the Sign shall be made by the owner or occupant of the premises and shall be submitted to the Zoning and Planning Administrator or his/her authorized designee. The submitted application shall include all the information listed in Subsection C below. Said application shall be reviewed by the Zoning and Planning Administrator or his/her authorized designee to ensure the Sign change meets the requirements of the approved uniform sign format for the business center. If the Sign application meets the requirements of the business center's uniform format, a permit shall be issued. The Zoning and Planning Administrator or his or her duly authorized designee may forward a permit application on to the Building Board if it is determined that such review and approval is necessary.
[h] 
Business Centers with less than four tenants may submit for approval of a uniform sign format. Such a submittal shall be governed in the same manner as prescribed in this code.
[2] 
Wholesale-manufacturing-center terminal. Each such business may be allowed up to one square foot of sign area per linear foot of building frontage on a public or private roadway serving its location.
(5) 
Signs shall be compatible with respect to size, proportions, materials and color with nearby structures and surroundings.
(6) 
Signs shall be designed as an integral architectural element of the structure and site to which it principally relates.
(7) 
The colors, materials and lighting of every sign shall be restrained and harmonious with the structure and site to which it principally relates.
(8) 
The number of graphic elements on a sign shall be held to the minimum needed to convey the sign's major message and shall be composed in proportion to the area of the sign face.
(9) 
Project developers, such as shopping centers or structures with more than one tenant, shall submit a comprehensive description of a uniform signage system so that individual business or tenant signs will be harmonious and compatible with the overall design of the structure and site.
(10) 
Identification signs of a prototype design and corporation logos shall conform to the criteria for all other signs.
(11) 
Ground sign restrictions.
(a) 
Only one ground sign per frontage road will be permitted on each property. No ground signs shall be permitted to extend into a public street right-of-way without approval of the Village Board. No approval will be granted absent a lease/license agreement being entered into and that the petitioner must provide insurance naming the Village and its officers, agents, insurers and employees as additional insureds.
(b) 
Monument signs are preferred where there is adequate room on site, as determined by the Building Board.
(12) 
Sign maintenance and safety specifications.
(a) 
Maintenance. The owner of any sign shall keep it in good maintenance and repair, which includes restoring, repainting or replacement of a worn or damaged legally existing sign to its original condition; and shall maintain the premises on which the sign is erected in a clean, sanitary and inoffensive condition, free and clear of obnoxious substances, rubbish, weeds and grass. The sign owner shall also be responsible for the removal of any sign within 30 days following the discontinuance of any business. If any such sign is not removed within such time, or if the Zoning Administrator shall find that such sign is not properly maintained and in a good state of repair, or if a sign has been erected in a manner that is not in conformance with the original permit, the Zoning Administrator shall give the property owner written notification to remove said sign within 15 days, after which time the Zoning Administrator shall be authorized to remove the sign, and all expenses incurred shall be assessed against the property owner.
(b) 
Illuminated signs.
[1] 
All glass fixtures shall be made of safety glass, wire mesh or otherwise constructed to prevent broken pieces from falling to the ground.
[2] 
Any sign illuminated by artificial light shall be constructed so as to not create a fire hazard.
(c) 
Wind pressure and dead loads. All signs shall be designed and constructed to receive dead loads as required in the Building Code of the Village.
(d) 
Safety. No signs or any part thereof or sign anchors, braces or guide rods shall be attached, fastened or anchored to any fire escape, fire ladder or standpipe; and no such sign or any part of any such sign or any anchor, brace or guide rod shall be erected, put up or maintained so as to hinder or prevent ingress or egress through a door, doorway or window or so as to hinder or prevent the raising or placing of ladders against such building by the Fire Department of the Village, as necessity therefor may require.
C. 
Permit application.
(1) 
An application to erect and construct signs shall be made by the owner or occupant of the premises and shall be addressed to the Building Board and shall contain the following information on forms provided by such Board:
(a) 
The name and address of the property owner and occupant(s);
(b) 
The name of the person, firm or corporation which will erect the sign;
(c) 
The proposed site of such sign, together with distances from railroad tracks, streets or highways, structures and property lines;
(d) 
The material of which the sign is to be constructed, proposed colors and drawings to scale of the information to be displayed upon such sign;
(e) 
The number of faces on such sign; and
(f) 
The method of illumination, if any, together with a survey of the premises on which sign is to be erected.
(2) 
Decision on permit applications.
(a) 
Upon approval of an application to erect a sign other than a temporary sign by the Village Building Board or Zoning Administrator, a conditional permit therefor shall be issued by the Village Clerk, which shall become permanent if, six months thereafter, the applicant shall submit to the Village Clerk an acceptable color photograph of the sign establishing to the Clerk's satisfaction that the sign has been erected in conformity with the conditional permit.
(b) 
In the event the Building Board shall reject an application, it shall file such rejection with the Village Clerk and notice thereof shall be given to the applicant.
D. 
Exterior temporary signs.
(1) 
Permits.
(a) 
Permits for exterior temporary signs shall be issued by the Zoning Administrator upon approval of a proper application. The Zoning Administrator may issue four nonconsecutive permits per applicant for exterior temporary signs in the course of a year. There shall not be more than one exterior temporary sign located on any single lot at any one time. An exterior temporary sign permit shall be issued only for the period of active use of the sign. Exterior temporary signs shall be permitted in all districts unless otherwise specified and may not be illuminated. No exterior temporary signs can be placed in the public right-of-way and shall not exceed 32 square feet in size.
[Amended 10-26-2010]
(b) 
Unless otherwise specified in this subsection or in the permit as issued, permits for exterior temporary signs shall expire 15 days after their issuance, except that permits for Grand Opening Signs shall expire 30 days after issuance. One Grand Opening Sign is permitted during the lifetime of a business. The Building Board may issue permits for exterior temporary signs in excess of 15 days. Any exterior temporary sign erected without a permit or for which the permit has expired may be removed by the Village without prior notice.
(2) 
A business can only display a sandwich board or a temporary sign at any one time.
(3) 
The enforcement of § 335-48D(1) may be temporarily suspended by resolution of the Village of Elm Grove Board of Trustees for a specified period of time as designated by the Board of Trustees. Such suspension may only be authorized when the Board of Trustees makes a finding that a temporary suspension of the enforcement of § 335-48D(1) of the chapter will likely provide a significant benefit to the community or that enforcement of the chapter's § 335-48D(1) will likely cause unnecessary hardship. A business proposing to place temporary signage shall file notification of an intent to place such temporary signage before placement by e-mail, fax or in person on a form provided by the Zoning Administrator.
[Added 10-26-2010]
Any person aggrieved by a decision of the Zoning Administrator or Building Board under this article may appeal to the Zoning Board of Appeals under Article IX of this chapter. In considering such an appeal, the Board of Appeals shall be guided by the standards set forth in this article.
A. 
Compliance. Owners of nonconforming signs that obtained permits for such signs prior to April 12, 1996, must comply with this Sign Article immediately.
B. 
Compliance grandfather clause. Owners of nonconforming signs that obtained permits for such signs between April 12, 1996, and April 12, 2001, must have complied with this Sign Article by April 12, 2006.
C. 
Damage to nonconforming signs. Nonconforming signs that are damaged or destroyed to the extent of 50% or more of their reasonable value, or the use thereof is discontinued for a period of 30 days, the privilege of continuation herein granted is terminated.
A. 
Inspections for violations of this article shall be under the direction of the Zoning Administrator.
B. 
Removal of illegal signs. Any sign erected or constructed before or after the passage of this article without the required permit shall be demolished or removed by the owner of the sign or by the owner or occupant of the premises.
C. 
Any person who violates any provision of this article or any rule or regulation promulgated under this article shall be subject to a penalty as provided in § 1-16 of this Code.