Borough of Lansdowne, PA
Delaware County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
The Borough recognizes that signs perform an important function in identifying properties, businesses, services, residences, events, and other matters of public interest. It is the intent of this article to:
A. 
Protect the general public health, safety, welfare, and aesthetics of the community.
B. 
Encourage sign design that builds on the traditional town image and visual environment the Borough seeks to promote.
C. 
Implement community design standards consistent with the Comprehensive Plan.
D. 
Promote the community's appearance by regulating the design, character, location, type, quality of materials, scale, color, illumination, and maintenance of signs.
E. 
Avoid excessive competition for large or multiple signs, so that permitted signs provide identification and direction while minimizing clutter, unsightliness, confusion, and hazardous distractions to motorists.
F. 
Reduce possible traffic and safety hazards through good signage.
From the effective date of this chapter, any sign erected shall conform to the provisions of this article and any other ordinance or regulations of the Borough of Lansdowne that relate to it.
Words and phrases used in this article shall have the meanings defined in this section. Words and phrases not defined in this article but defined elsewhere in this chapter shall be given the meanings set forth in the Definitions Section.[1]
ABANDONED SIGN
A sign which no longer identifies or advertises an existing business, leased, service, owner, product, or activity, and/or for which no legal owner can be found (Prohibited).
DOUBLE-FACED SIGN
A sign with two identical faces of equal sign area, which are back to back.
LEGALLY NONCONFORMING SIGN
Any existing sign:
A. 
Located on a premises in the Borough with a permitted use; and
B. 
Legally erected prior to the adoption of this article; and
C. 
Not meeting the provisions of the current ordinance.
SIGN
Any advertisement, announcement, direction, picture or informational material attached to, painted or otherwise on or forming a part of any building, structure, awning, marquee or surface or erected on any real property. The word "sign" shall include the framework, the supports and attachments.
SIGN AREA
The area of all lettering, wording and accompanying designs and symbols, together with the background on which they are displayed. "Sign area" excludes any supporting framework and bracing, provided that it does not contain any lettering, wording, symbols or designs. For the purpose of this article, "sign area" shall be computed as a square or rectangle drawn at the outer limits of the sign face. In the case of cylindrical signs, signs in the shape of cubes, or other signs which are essentially three-dimensional with respect to their display surfaces, the entire display surface or surfaces is included in the computation of area.
A. 
Where the sign consists of a double face, only one side shall be considered for the purpose of calculating total sign area. Where both sides are not identical or where the interior angle formed by the faces of a sign is greater than 45°, all faces shall be considered in calculating total sign area.
B. 
Any spacing between signs designating different or separate occupants or uses of a building shall not be counted as sign area.
SIGN FACE
The part of a sign that is or can be used to identify, advertise and communicate information for visual representation, which attracts the attention of the public for any purpose. This definition shall include any background material, panel, trim and color used that differentiates the sign from the building or structure on which it is placed. The sign structure shall not be included, provided that no message, display or symbol is designed and included as part of the structure.
SIGN HEIGHT
The distance from the highest portion of the sign, including all structural elements, to mean grade.
SIGN STRUCTURE
A supporting structure erected and used for the purpose of physically supporting a sign, situated on any premises where a sign may be located. This definition shall not include a building, fence, wall or earthen berm.
TEMPORARY COMMERCIAL PROMOTION SIGN
Any sign, object or device placed out of doors which advertises or draws attention to a commercial establishment or product which is not permanently fixed to a building or property, including, without limitation, banners, inflatable signs, wind feather blade signs, or any other type of sign temporarily erected, installed, hung, flown or supported by any means.
[Added 4-15-2015 by Ord. No. 1295]
TEMPORARY SIGN
A sign which advertises community or civic projects, construction projects, real estate for sale or lease, or other special events on a temporary basis.
TYPES OF SIGNS
Signs are defined by form and by purpose.
[Amended 4-15-2015 by Ord. No. 1295]
A. 
"Purpose" refers to the type of message contained in the sign.
Signs as defined by purpose: The type of message contained in the sign.
Temporary Commercial Promotion Sign
B. 
"Form" refers to the physical sign itself.
[Amended 4-5-2017 by Ord. No. 1306]
Signs as defined by form: The physical structure of the sign.
Temporary Commercial Promotion Sign
 
[1]
Editor's Note: See § 330-4.
A. 
The following restrictions and regulations shall be applicable to all signs unless otherwise specified (specific sign use regulations are contained in § 330-44, Sign uses and restrictions, of this article):
(1) 
Materials. All signs, excluding awning and window signs, shall be constructed only from wood, metal, stone or other material as determined by the Borough which has the general appearance of structures composed primarily of wood, metal, or stone with painted, engraved or raised messages. Sign materials should complement the original construction materials and architectural style of the building facade on which they are to be displayed. If plywood is used, medium density overlay shall be used as a minimum grade. Bare plywood is prohibited.
(2) 
Colors. Colors should be selected to contribute to legibility and design integrity. Even the most carefully thought out sign may be unattractive and a poor communicator because of poor color selection. In selecting the principal colors for a sign, colors that complement the color of the building should be used.
(3) 
Illumination. Internally illuminated signs are not permitted in historic districts. See § 330-43. Where permitted, signs shall be illuminated only in accordance with the following regulations as authorized in an appropriate sign permit:
(a) 
Light sources shall be shielded from all adjacent properties and streets and shall not be of such intensity as to cause glare hazardous to pedestrians or motorists.
(b) 
With the exception of marquee signs, sings using internal illumination shall be designed so that when illuminated at night, only the letters and logos of the sign are visible. Individual, solid letters with internal lighting tubes which backlight a wall in a halo effect are permitted.
(c) 
Permits for illuminated signs will not be issued without an approved electrical permit. All work shall be completed in full compliance with the Electrical Code as set forth in the most recently published Pennsylvania Uniform Construction Code (UCC).
(4) 
Electrical connections. The electrical supply to all exterior signs, whether to the sign itself or to lighting fixtures positioned to illuminate the sign, shall be provided by means of concealed electrical cables. Electrical supply to freestanding signs shall be provided by means of underground cables. Applications for electrical permits shall be filed at the same time of the sign permit application.
(5) 
Nuisance. No sign shall create a public nuisance by emitting smoke, sound, vapor, beams or rays, particle emission or odors.
(6) 
Sign removal.
(a) 
All signs must relate to the use of the property on which the sign is displayed and must be removed within 60 days after that use changes or ceases. The owner of the premises shall have the responsibility to ensure such signs are removed within the sixty-day period.
(b) 
Any sign that becomes dangerous to public safety or a nuisance shall be made to comply with the provisions of this chapter and the Pennsylvania Uniform Construction Code (UCC)[1] or it shall be removed by the owner of the real property or by the Borough after 10 days' notice to the owner at the owner's expense.
[1]
Editor's Note: See Ch. 146, Building Construction, Art. I, Uniform Construction Code.
(7) 
No sign or structure shall be erected unless it complies with all applicable requirements of the Pennsylvania Uniform Construction Code (UCC).
(8) 
All signs and sign structures shall be kept in good repair and in presentable condition, so that all sign information is clearly legible. Any sign found by the Zoning Officer to show deterioration, including rust, faded colors, discoloration, holes and missing parts or informational item, shall constitute a violation of this article.
(9) 
No sign shall be placed in such a position that it will cause danger to traffic by impairing the view.
(10) 
No sign or structure shall be placed in the public right-of-way except for permitted sandwich boards, projecting signs, and civic/church event signs as provided for in this article.
(11) 
No sign shall hereafter be altered, rebuilt, enlarged, extended or relocated except in accordance with the requirements of this chapter. The changing information displayed by signs that are designed for change (e.g., changeable copy signs) or the repainting of display matter shall not be deemed to be alterations or rebuilding within the meaning of this section. No sign existing before the adoption of this chapter and not conforming thereto may be changed or altered in its informational content or display or in any other way except to bring it into conformance with this chapter.
B. 
Sign design guidelines. The following design guidelines should be consulted prior to developing signs for any project (specific sign use regulations are contained in § 330-44, Sign uses and restrictions, of this article):
(1) 
Use a brief message. The fewer the words, the more effective the sign. A sign with a brief, succinct message is simpler and faster to read, looks cleaner and is more attractive.
(2) 
Avoid hard-to-read, overly intricate, faddish and bizarre typefaces. These typefaces are difficult to read and reduce the sign's ability to communicate. Faddish and bizarre typefaces may look good today, but soon go out of style. The image conveyed may quickly become that of a dated and unfashionable business.
(3) 
Use significant contrast between the background and letter or symbol colors. If there is little contrast between the brightness or hue of the message of a sign and its background, it will be difficult to read.
(4) 
Avoid too many different colors on a sign. Too many colors overwhelm the basic function of communication. The colors compete with content for the viewer's attention. Limited use of the accent colors can increase legibility, while large areas of competing colors tend to confuse and disturb.
(5) 
Scale. Place signs consistent with the proportions of scale of building elements within the facade. Within a building facade, the sign may be placed in different areas. A particular sign may fit well on a plain wall area, but would overpower the finer scale and proportion of the lower storefront. A sign which is appropriate near the building entry may look tiny and out of place above the ground level.
(6) 
Make signs smaller if they are oriented to pedestrians. The pedestrian-oriented sign is usually read from a distance of 15 to 20 feet; the vehicle-oriented sign is viewed from a much greater distance. The closer a sign's viewing distance, the smaller that sign need be.
(7) 
Facades. Place wall signs to establish facade rhythm, scale and proportion where such elements are weak. In many buildings that have a monolithic or plain facade, signs can establish or continue appropriate design rhythm, scale and proportion.
(8) 
Shape. Avoid signs with strange shapes. Signs that are unnecessarily narrow or oddly shaped can restrict the legibility of the message. If an unusual shape is not symbolic, it is probably confusing.
(9) 
Carefully consider the proportion of letter area to overall sign background area. If letters take up too much sign, they may be harder to read. Large letters are not necessarily more legible than smaller ones. A general rule is that letters should not appear to occupy more than 75% of the sign face area.
It shall be unlawful for any person, firm or corporation to erect any sign in the Borough unless it is specifically permitted in this article. Unlawful signs include, but are not limited to:
A. 
Any sign which by color, shape or location conflicts with or resembles a traffic signal device.
B. 
Signs attached to rocks, utility poles, parking meters, traffic signposts, traffic signals or control devices, street signs, or historical markers.
C. 
Signs attached to trees, shrubs or any living vegetative matter.
D. 
Any sign, outside of the General Business District, which advertises or publicizes an activity or business not conducted on the premises, except civic/church event signs.
E. 
Signs erected without the permission of the property owner or authorized agent.
F. 
Signs that create a hazard by obstructing the clear view of vehicles and pedestrian traffic.
G. 
Animated signs, except time and temperature signs.
H. 
Any sign that obstructs free ingress to or egress from a required door, window, fire escape or other required exit.
I. 
Vehicular signs.
J. 
Abandoned signs.
K. 
Signs that exhibit statements, words or pictures of obscene or pornographic subjects.
L. 
Flashing signs, except for the time and temperature portion of a sign; beacon lights.
M. 
Neon signs.
N. 
Revolving signs.
O. 
Tethered balloons, filled either by gas or heated air.
P. 
Roof signs.
Q. 
Wall signs that cover windows or architectural detail.
R. 
Pennants longer than 150% of the street frontage of the premises.
S. 
Signs with reflective backgrounds.
A. 
Unless otherwise provided by this article, all signs shall require permits and payment of fees as described in § 330-42. No permit is required for the maintenance of a sign or for a change of copy on a legally conforming painted, printed, or changeable copy sign. For the purposes of this section, "maintenance" shall include any repainting of a sign that does not otherwise change its message or appearance.
B. 
Applications for permits shall be submitted to the Borough Manager on a form furnished by the Borough Manager and shall be accompanied with the payment of the fee as set forth from time to time by resolution of the Borough Council of the Borough of Lansdowne. The application shall present full particulars as to size, shape, materials, supports, location and height above any sidewalk or driveway and the information displayed by the sign and shall be accompanied by drawings sufficient to show compliance with this chapter. Only if the proposed sign meets the requirements of this chapter shall the Borough Manager issue a sign permit.
C. 
Written consent of the owner of the property on which the sign is to be located shall accompany the application when the applicant is other than the owner or the tenant responsible for maintenance of the building.
The following signs shall be allowed without a sign permit and shall not be included in the determination of the number or sign area of other signs allowed within a zoning district, subject to the restrictions in § 330-44:
A. 
Government/regulatory signs.
B. 
Real estate signs.
C. 
Public interest signs.
D. 
Yard sale signs.
E. 
Address signs.
F. 
Interior signs.
G. 
Incidental signs.
H. 
Civic/church event signs on premises.
I. 
Pennants as permitted in this article. Pennants may only be used on a nonresidential premises.
J. 
Artisan signs.
K. 
Home occupation signs smaller than two square feet.
A. 
The following signs shall be allowed as conditional uses:
(1) 
Murals.
(2) 
Marquee signs.
B. 
Borough Council shall ensure the proposed sign is appropriate to the style, period, type, size and scale of the building for which it is proposed. Council shall weigh testimony from other property owners in the vicinity regarding the merits of the sign. Council shall weigh whether the sign will enhance the traditional town character of Lansdowne or detract from it in determining whether the sign shall be permitted.
Signs on the premises of legally nonconforming uses, such as an office in a residential area, may remain until the existing use of the premises is discontinued. If a sign wears out or is damaged, or is changed for any other reason, the number, size and area of all signs relating to the premises shall not be increased beyond the size they were at the time this article was adopted.
A. 
A legally nonconforming sign shall immediately lose its legally nonconforming designation if the sign is altered in any way. At that point, the sign shall be immediately brought into compliance with this article and a new permit secured, or the sign shall be removed.
B. 
If a legally nonconforming sign lists more than one business, new businesses may be added without affecting the nonconforming status of the sign. However, the sign may not be altered in any way that extends the sign's nonconformity in any manner.
C. 
Nothing in this article shall relieve the owners or users of legally nonconforming signs, or the owners of the property on which legally nonconforming signs are located, from any provisions of this article regarding the safety, maintenance, and repair of signs.
D. 
Should 50% or more of any legally nonconforming sign be damaged by any means, it shall be removed and not reconstructed except in conformity with the provisions of this article.
E. 
Any business that has closed shall remove any signs associated with the business within 60 days after it closes. The owner of the premises shall have the responsibility to ensure such signs as well as any pylons, posts, sign frames or similar support structures or mechanisms are removed within the sixty-day period.
F. 
The existence of a legally nonconforming sign on a single- or multiple-occupancy premises shall not prevent the erection or placement of another sign on the premises, if the new sign meets the requirements of this article. However, the total number of signs and the size and area of the signs shall not exceed the requirements of this article.
A. 
It shall be unlawful for any person, firm or corporation to erect, alter, repair or relocate any sign within the Borough of Lansdowne without first obtaining a sign permit, unless the sign is specifically exempt from the permit requirements.
B. 
Applications for sign permits shall be made upon forms provided by the Borough Manager or designee and shall contain and/or have attached the following information where relevant:
(1) 
Names, address, telephone number and signature of the owner or duly authorized agent for the property owner.
(2) 
Name, address, telephone number and signature of the owner of the sign.
(3) 
Name, address and telephone number of the sign contractor.
(4) 
Property address and applicable zoning district.
(5) 
If the sign is located in an historic district, confirmation that an application has been submitted to the Historic Architectural Review Board.
(6) 
Two copies of a plan drawn to scale depicting:
(a) 
Lot dimensions, building frontage, and existing cartways, rights-of-way and driveways.
(b) 
The design of each sign face and sign structure, including dimensions, total area, sign height, depth, color scheme, structural details, materials, lighting scheme and proposed location.
(c) 
Sign message.
(d) 
Building elevations, existing and proposed facades, parapet walls, cornices and the location and size of all proposed and existing permanent signage.
(e) 
Current photographs showing existing signs on the premises and certifying the date on which photographs were taken.
(7) 
A permit fee, to be established from time to time by resolution of Borough Council, shall be paid.
(8) 
A deposit of $500 shall be posted for off-premises civic/church event signs to ensure their removal within 72 hours after the event. A list of locations of the signs shall be provided with the deposit. The deposit will be returned after the Borough Manager has certified the signs have been removed.
(9) 
Such other information which may be required by the Borough Manager to show full compliance with this and all other ordinances of the Borough.
C. 
Provided that all of the requirements of this chapter are met for a temporary commercial promotion sign, the Borough Manager shall issue a permit for such sign(s), but the permit shall have a duration not to exceed 30 days, and the holder of such permit shall not be entitled to obtain another permit for a temporary commercial promotion sign for a period of 60 days following the expiration of said permit. For example, if a permit for a temporary commercial promotion sign shall be issued on March 15, said permit would expire on April 14, and the permit holder would not be able to obtain a permit for another temporary commercial promotion sign until June 13. Upon the expiration of the permit, the temporary commercial promotion sign(s) shall be taken down and removed from view.
[Added 4-15-2015 by Ord. No. 1295]
In addition to all other requirements of this article, the following regulations shall be applicable to any sign placed in an historic district:
A. 
No sign shall be erected or altered until an application for a certificate of appropriateness has been reviewed and approved by the Lansdowne Historic Architectural Review Board and after Borough Council has issued a certificate of appropriateness. The Review Board shall ensure the proposed sign is appropriate:
(1) 
To the style, period, type, size and scale of the building for which it is proposed.
(2) 
With other signs in the district.
B. 
In addition to all other applicable requirements of this article, the following regulations shall apply to any sign placed in an historic district:
(1) 
All applications for a certificate of appropriateness must contain the following information:
(a) 
A current color photograph of the property.
(b) 
An illustration of the building facade showing the proposed sign.
(c) 
A scaled drawing showing the sign itself and including the size, materials, colors, lighting, lettering and method of attachment. Material samples may be required.
(d) 
For ground signs, a site plan indicating the location of the sign.
(e) 
The type of illumination.
See the Uses and Restrictions tables.[1]
How to use the Uses and Restrictions tables:
1.
Determine what kind of sign you would like to erect in terms of its PURPOSE (see Definitions, § 330-34).
2.
Look for that particular sign in the second column.
3.
The third column shows what FORM (physical structure) is permitted for each type of purpose sign (see Definitions, § 330-34).
4.
The fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh columns show restrictions applicable with each type of sign. The restrictions include maximum number, height, and sign area and additional requirements where necessary.
EXAMPLE: An artisan sign is permitted in all zoning districts, on any kind of premises, in the form of a freestanding or wall sign. The maximum area of the sign is 12 square feet and the maximum height is 6 feet. It may not be illuminated, may not be erected until work begins and must be removed when work ends.
[1]
Editor's Note: The tables are included at the end of this chapter.