Village of Richfield, WI
Washington County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
The purpose of this chapter is:
A. 
To regulate the size, height, type, construction standards, maintenance, and placement of signs situated within the boundaries of the Village of Richfield, Wisconsin.
B. 
To promote the public health, safety, welfare, and comfort of the general public by:
(1) 
Reducing distractions and obstructions from signs that would adversely affect traffic safety and alleviating hazards caused by signs projecting over or encroaching upon the public right-of-way.
(2) 
Discouraging excessive visual competition in signage and ensuring that signs aid orientation and adequately identify uses and activities to the public.
(3) 
Preserving or enhancing the community, natural beauty, and unique physical characteristics of the Village of Richfield as a community in which to live and work by requiring new and replacement signage that is:
(a) 
Creative and distinctive.
(b) 
Harmonious with nearby buildings, surrounding neighborhood aesthetics, and other signs in the area.
(c) 
Appropriate to the use or business that is in operation on the premises.
(d) 
Expressive of the Village's identity in a manner that will not diminish property values.
(e) 
Complimentary to the Village's architectural character and commercial developments.
(f) 
Consistent with a healthy and properly designed business environment.
(g) 
Consistent with property values within the Village.
[1]
Editor's Note: Amended at time of adoption of Code (see Ch. 1, General Provisions, Art. II).
Except as otherwise expressly noted herein, the regulations of this chapter shall govern all outdoor signs, advertising structures or devices with respect to location, safety, size, construction standards, erection, attachment, support, and lighting.
The following words, terms, and phrases, when used in this chapter, shall have the meanings ascribed to them in this section, except where the context clearly indicates a different meaning:
AWNING SIGN
A nonilluminated, projecting identification sign painted on or affixed flat to the surface of an awning and which does not extend vertically or horizontally from the awning.
BANNER
A nonilluminated, elongated sign, intended to be hung either with or without frames, possessing characters, letters, illustrations, or ornamentation applied to paper, plastic, or fabric of any kind usually used for temporary display for the special announcement of a coming event or occasion.
BILLBOARD
Any sign at least 200 square feet but not more than 800 square feet in area per one side, no more than 35 feet in height and generally used to advertise a place of business or product.
BULLETIN BOARD
A sign used by governmental and institutional agencies to publicly display notices of meetings, services, regulations and announcements. Such signs are not necessarily designed to be read from a distance or by the traveling public.
CANOPY SIGN
A projecting sign affixed to or forming part of a permanent canopy or marquee and which does not extend horizontally beyond the limits or edge of such canopy or marquee.
CHANGEABLE COPY SIGN
Any sign which is characterized by manually changeable words, letters, numbers, or symbols, not including continuous moving or electronic-oriented signs.
COMMUNITY SIGN
A temporary sign that conveys information to the public to promote not-for-profit, civic, and community events or functions and to create a sense of community and character.
CONSTRUCTION SIGN
A sign that identifies individuals or companies involved in design, construction, wrecking, financing, or development of a building and/or road and to identify these future uses.
ELECTRONIC SIGN
A sign that conveys text and/or graphic information that is capable of being changed or manipulated electronically.
FLAGS and PENNANTS
Devices generally made of flexible materials, such as cloth, paper, or plastic, and displayed on strings or wires. Such devices may or may not include words, letters, or numbers. This definition does not include the flag of any country or state.
FLASHING SIGN
A sign whose illumination is not kept constant in intensity at all times when in use and/or which exhibits changes in light, color, direction, animation, and word/text changes. Illuminated signs which indicate the date, time, and temperature will not be considered as part of a flashing sign.
GROUND SIGN
A freestanding sign affixed to or placed on the ground and independent of any buildings or other permanent structure. (See "monument sign" or "pole sign.")
HIGH-INTENSITY LIGHTING
Lighting that is considered obtrusive to neighboring properties or traffic.
LOW-INTENSITY LIGHTING
Lighting that is unobtrusive to neighboring properties or traffic.
MARQUEE
See "canopy sign."
MONUMENT SIGN
A freestanding sign supported by a solid foundation on one base that is at least as wide as the sign's display area.
OFF-PREMISES DIRECTION/SALES SIGNS
Signs which are intended to advertise places of business not located on the same parcel or land ownership as the off-premises sign.
POLE SIGN
A freestanding sign supported by one or more poles, except a monument sign.
PORTABLE SIGN
Any sign that is mounted on wheels or can be readily moved from place to place on the premises. Such signs are generally not permanently attached to the ground or to a permanent structure on the premises.
PROJECTING SIGN
A sign not attached to the ground and projecting more than 12 inches from the face of a building or other permanent structure.
REAL ESTATE SIGN
Any sign primarily used for advertising the sale or transfer of real estate.
REGIONAL MOTOR VEHICLE FUEL STATION
A motor fuel station located on a parcel that has direct access to a state trunk highway and is located within 300 feet of the right-of-way of an interstate highway and that also has 15 or more pumps for passenger cars/light trucks and eight or more diesel pumps for trucks.
[Added 11-29-2018 by Ord. No. 2018-11-03]
ROOF SIGN
A sign erected on or over the roof of a building.
SANDWICH SIGN
See "ground sign."
SIGN
Any display of lettering, logos, colors, lights, or illuminated neon tubes visible to the public from outside of a building or from a traveled way, which either conveys a message to the public, or intends to advertise, direct, invite, announce, or draw attention to goods, products, services, promotions, events, occasions, facilities, persons, property interest, or business either on the lot or on any other premises.
SIGNABLE AREA
The area of the facade of the building facing or abutting upon a street right-of-way up to the ceiling line of the top floor which is free of windows and doors or major architectural detail on which signs may be displayed.
SIGN AREA
That part of a total sign structure which encompasses the sign message, exclusive of a structure upon which the sign area is affixed or which supports the sign area. However, for the purpose of computing square feet of a sign area, any exposed structure which supports a sign may not comprise more than 1/3 of the visible or exposed surface of one side of a total sign structure.
TEMPORARY SIGN
Any sign not permanently attached to the ground, wall or building, designed to advertise a commodity or event for a specific amount of time.
TEMPORARY SUPPORT BANNER
A banner affixed to the outfield fence of a baseball diamond owned by the Village of Richfield for the purposes of off-site advertising.
[Added 2-17-2011 by Ord. No. 2011-2-1]
TOTAL SIGN STRUCTURE
The sign area, plus any exposed area or members of the supporting structure on or to which the sign, or sign message, is affixed. Decorative, landscaped earthen berms or structures which are composed principally of exposed earth and/or landscape (plant) materials are not included as part of the total sign structure.
VISION TRIANGLE
The unoccupied triangular space at the street corner of a corner lot which is a line joining points on such lines located a minimum of 15 feet from their intersection. Corner lots located on arterial streets shall be increased to 30 feet.
WALL SIGN
A sign which is attached to a wall of a building or structure and projects not more than 12 inches from such wall.
WINDOW SIGN
A sign painted on or affixed to a window. Materials affixed to a window shall be affixed to the inside surface of the window.
A. 
It shall be unlawful for any person to locate, erect, move, reconstruct, extend, enlarge, convert, or structurally alter any sign without a permit, except those signs described in § 309-19, and all signs in the Village shall fully conform to the requirements of this chapter. The Building Inspector shall notify the property owner of the violation and specify a set date to come into compliance with this chapter. No sign shall be placed in the public right-of-way unless specifically authorized in this chapter. If the property owner fails to comply he will be subject to a penalty as provided in § 1-3 of this Code. Legal nonconforming signs shall follow the provisions in § 309-9.[1]
[1]
Editor's Note: Amended at time of adoption of Code (see Ch. 1, General Provisions, Art. II).
B. 
The zoning districts referred to in this chapter shall be the zoning districts created and existing, from time to time, pursuant to the Village Zoning Ordinance. Section 70.212 of the Zoning Ordinance specifically permits or excludes certain signage within the Walkable Hamlet District(s). Signage for the Walkable Hamlet District shall comply with this chapter, where applicable.
C. 
All signs, except those signs described in § 309-19, shall comply with the structural and construction standards of §§ 309-14 and 309-15, as well as Chapter 135, Building Construction, of this Code, and shall, if illuminated, comply with Article II of Chapter 135, as evidenced by the issuance of an electrical permit.
D. 
All signs, except those signs described in § 309-19, shall be constructed in conformity with plans and specifications approved by the Building Inspector under § 309-5.
E. 
No sign shall be erected or maintained contrary to the provisions of §§ 84.30, 86.19 and 86.191, Wis. Stats.
F. 
Words and phrases on signs shall be kept to a minimum. Signs shall serve a primary function of way finding and site identification. Signs having immoral or indecent verbiage may require rewording or rephrasing the sign prior to issuance or reissuance of a permit.
G. 
Violations of this chapter shall be subject to a citation for each day of noncompliance.
A. 
Applications for permits shall be filed with the Building Inspector who shall review the application for its completeness and accuracy and approve or deny the application within 10 days of receipt unless the time is extended by written agreement with the applicant.
B. 
Temporary signage, if planned throughout an entire calendar year, may be applied for on a separate form. This would reserve the amount of signage, time frames permitted, and durations in between sign postings, within a given year.
C. 
A sign shall become null and void if work authorized under the permit has not been completed within one year from the date of issuance.
D. 
Applications shall be made on forms provided by the Building Inspector and shall contain or have attached thereto the following information:
(1) 
Name, address, and telephone number of the sign erector, sign owner, and property owner of the premises on which the sign is located or is to be located.
(2) 
Name of person, firm, corporation, or association erecting the sign.
(3) 
Written consent of the owner and lessee of the building, structure or land to which or upon which the sign is to be affixed or erected.
(4) 
A scaled drawing of the proposed sign indicating the height, perimeter, and area dimensions, the color and materials to be used, the type of illumination, if any, and the method of construction and attachment, and any other significant aspect of the proposed sign.
(5) 
A scaled site drawing indicating the location and position of such sign in relation to nearby buildings, structures or signs, as well as position of the sign with distances in relation to adjacent lot lines, buildings, sidewalks, setbacks, streets, and intersections shown on a legal plat produced by a licensed surveyor or engineer.
(6) 
The purpose of the sign and information, or type of information, or message to be displayed on the face of the sign.
(7) 
Copies of any other permit required and issued for the sign must be submitted to the Building Inspector at the time of application submittal. The Building Inspector shall examine the plans and specifications, inspecting all wiring and connections, to determine if the proposed sign complies with this chapter.[1]
[1]
Editor's Note: Amended at time of adoption of Code (see Ch. 1, General Provisions, Art. II).
(8) 
Additional information such as photographs as may be required by the Building Inspector.
E. 
Issuance of permit.
(1) 
Upon review of the sign the Building Inspector shall review all plans, specifications and other pertinent data. The Building Inspector shall determine whether the proposed sign is in compliance with the requirements of this chapter and all other regulations of the Village of Richfield.
(2) 
Following the Building Inspector's review of the sign permit application, the Building Inspector shall take the following actions:
(a) 
If the proposed sign is not in compliance with the requirements of this chapter and all other regulations of the Village of Richfield, the Building Inspector shall deny such permit and state the specific reasons for the denial (see § 309-6, Appeals).
(b) 
If the Building Inspector determines there is a question as to whether or not the proposed sign is in accordance with the intent of this chapter, the Building Inspector shall refer the sign permit application to the Plan Commission. If the question concerns specifically the architectural character of the sign, the Plan Commission may refer the sign to the Architectural Review Board for additional review.
Any person aggrieved by a decision of the Building Inspector with respect to the administration of this chapter may, within 10 working days after receiving official notification by the Village, appeal the decision of the Building Inspector to the Village Board.
A. 
Inspection. Signs for which a permit is required may be inspected periodically by the Building Inspector for compliance with this chapter and other Village codes.
B. 
Removal of illegal or unsafe signs. If the provisions of this chapter are not being met, the Building Inspector shall report such fact to the sign owner and request that the sign be made to comply with this chapter. Any sign in violation of this chapter shall be brought into compliance within 30 days or a time set by the Building Inspector. If the sign is not made to comply with this chapter, the Building Inspector may direct the sign to be removed by the owner, and if not so removed, a citation may be issued.
C. 
Maintenance. The owner of a sign and/or the owner of the land on which the sign is situated shall maintain such sign in good and safe condition, which includes restoring, repainting or replacing a worn or damaged legally existing sign on the effective date of this chapter 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 all noxious substances, rubbish, weeds and grass. Failure to maintain the sign after notice from the Building Inspector shall be cause for the removal of such signs under Subsection B. Whenever the Building Inspector determines that the cost to repair a sign will exceed 50% of its replacement cost, such sign shall be deemed a hazard, and the Building Inspector shall order its removal under Subsection B. This subsection shall apply to new and legal nonconforming signs.
D. 
Abandoned signs. A sign used to advertise a business which no longer operates shall be removed by the owner or lessee of the premises upon which the sign is located within one year of the last day of the business operation. If the owner or lessee fails to remove it, the Building Inspector shall give the owner 10 days' written notice to remove it. Upon failure to comply with this chapter, the property owner will be subject to penalty as provided in § 1-3 of this Code. Where a successor to a defunct business agrees to maintain the sign(s) as provided in this chapter, this removal shall not apply. The new sign user shall forthwith apply to the Building Inspector for a new sign permit in the same manner as if the sign(s) were new to the premises.
Signs lawfully existing at the time of the adoption of this chapter or related amendment to this chapter may be continued, although the size or location may not conform to this chapter, provided that the owners of such signs shall, within two years of the effective date of this chapter or any amendment thereto, apply for a permit under this chapter. Upon the filing of such application, the Building Inspector shall issue a permit to the sign owner without charge. Nonconforming signs shall adhere to the provisions of § 309-9.
[Amended 3-18-2010 by Ord. No. 2010-3-1]
A. 
Signs which were lawful prior to the time this chapter was passed or amended but which would be prohibited, regulated, or restricted under the terms of this chapter shall be deemed legal nonconforming signs. Such signs shall be permitted to continue until such time a major change is made to the sign. Major changes include changing the name or size, adding lights, refurbishing and/or relocation.
B. 
All nonconforming signs shall be kept in good repair and in safe, neat, clean, and attractive condition. In the event that a sign is not kept in good condition or is demolished by any force whatsoever to the extent of 50% or more of its replacement cost at the time of the damage, any replacement sign shall then conform to this chapter, except in circumstances where rebuilding is allowed by state statute. Nothing herein shall prevent maintenance, repainting or normal repair of legally established nonconforming signs.
C. 
In any zoning district, where any sign does not comply with the provisions of this chapter, such sign and any supporting structures may be maintained in their existing condition. Nonconforming signs can be repainted or refaced, provided that the height and landscaping requirements are met in the underlying zoning district. Nonconforming signs may not be enlarged, extended, moved, modified, reconstructed, or structurally altered except in accordance with this section and without first obtaining the necessary permits from the Village.
D. 
A nonconforming sign must be removed if the structure, building, or use to which it is accessory is destroyed, or demolished to an extent exceeding 50% of the appraised value of the principal structure, building, or use, except in circumstances where rebuilding is allowed per state statute.
E. 
A nonconforming sign which is destroyed or damaged to an extent exceeding 50% of its appraised value may be altered, replaced, or reinstalled as a special exception approved by the Plan Commission. If the damage or destruction is 50% or less of the appraised value, the sign may be restored within 60 days of the damage but shall not be enlarged in any manner.
F. 
Supporting structures for nonconforming signs may continue in use for a conforming sign if said supporting structures comply in all respects with the applicable requirements.
G. 
If a legal nonconforming off-premises sign is removed for any reason, the Village Board may, upon petition of the property owner and the business owner, allow the reestablishment of such sign upon a determination that the affected business is a permitted use in the zoning district in which it is located or is classified as a legal nonconforming use, the sign regulations in effect at the time do not allow the affected business to establish an off-premises sign in the zoning district in which it is located, and reestablishment of such sign is necessary for the continued operation of the business. If approval is granted, the property owner shall file a deed restriction, as approved by the Village Attorney or Village Administrator, in the office of the Register of Deeds for Washington County that contains the following provisions: such sign may only advertise the business listed in the petition, such sign shall be removed and not again reestablished if such business does not operate for any reason for 12 continuous months, and any other specific provision or condition of approval deemed advisable by the Village Board. The reestablished sign shall be placed in the same location as the sign that was removed, provided that such location meets applicable siting requirements of this chapter, shall be no larger than 32 square feet or the size of the sign that was removed, whichever is smaller, and shall not exceed a height of eight feet above existing grade.
A. 
Application and sign erection permit fee. Each application for a permit shall be accompanied by a fee as set by the Village Board from time to time.
B. 
Liability. The acceptance of a fee as provided in this section shall not deem the Village obligated to issue a permit.
A. 
Signs shall not resemble, imitate or approximate the shape, size, form or color of railroad or traffic signs, signals or devices.
B. 
Signs shall not obstruct or interfere with the effectiveness of railroad or traffic signs, signals or devices.
C. 
Signs shall not be erected, relocated or maintained so as to prevent free ingress to or egress from any door, window or fire escape, and no sign shall be attached to a standpipe or fire escape.
D. 
Signs shall be placed so as not to obstruct or interfere with traffic visibility and shall not be lighted in a way which causes glare or impairs driver visibility upon public ways.
E. 
Decorative or wall art shall only be allowed after a public hearing and affirmative action by the Village Board.
F. 
Banners, pennants, streamers, balloons, inflatable signs, and other gas-filled figures are not permitted, except as a temporary sign, as may be permitted per § 309-28 of this chapter.
G. 
Billboard signs are not permitted in any district, unless otherwise stated in this chapter.
H. 
All signage promoting products and/or services integral to the use of a business or service, located off the premises of said business, is not permitted, unless otherwise specified by this chapter.
I. 
No sign shall be permitted which is animated by means of flashing, scintillating, blinking, or traveling lights or any other device or means not providing constant illumination.[1]
[1]
Editor's Note: Amended at time of adoption of Code (see Ch. 1, General Provisions, Art. II).
J. 
Unprofessional hand-painted signs erected as permanent outdoor advertising signs are not permitted.
K. 
The tacking, pasting, or otherwise affixing of signs of a miscellaneous character, visible from a roadway, located on the walls of buildings, barns, sheds, trees, poles, posts, fences, or other structures, is prohibited unless otherwise permitted by this chapter.
L. 
No sign or any portion thereof shall be permitted which moves or assumes any motion or gives the illusion of moving.
M. 
No portable signs shall be permitted, including but not limited to A- or T-frame signs and signs on trailer frames, whether or not the trailer wheels or the typeface has been removed, except where permitted as temporary signs set forth in § 309-28 of this chapter.
N. 
Any sign on top of a roof is prohibited.
O. 
Overhead swinging signs, except those meeting the requirements for suspended signs, are prohibited.
P. 
No sign shall be placed on any communication, radio, or cell tower without the approval of the Plan Commission.
Q. 
Signs placed on parked vehicles, boats, trucks, or utility trailers which are visible from a public right-of-way for which the apparent purpose is to advertise a product or to direct the public to a business or activity are prohibited. This subsection is not intended to apply to standard advertising or identification practices where signs or advertising is painted on or permanently attached to business or commercial vehicles which are used in the daily operation of the business and parked in designated parking spaces designed for their particular vehicle type.
R. 
No signs are allowed which operate or employ any stereopticon or motion-picture projection or media in conjunction with any advertisements, have visible moving parts, or give the illusion of movements, except as permitted in this chapter.
S. 
No signs which emit audible sound, odor, or visible matter are permitted.
Signs containing moving parts or reflective elements through means of flashing, blinking, scrolling, rotating, causing glare or other graphic portrayal are not permitted. Static information may be expressed within a five-minute time frame, with such information complying with Article I of this chapter. Digital information must be shown using low-intensity lighting with soft colors, as seen from a public right-of-way. Use of fluorescent colors and/or high-intensity lighting is not permitted. Signs indicating the current time, date and temperature are also permitted.
All signs must meet the following illumination criteria:
A. 
All illuminated signs must meet the standards as specified in the National Electrical Code, as adopted and amended by the state.
B. 
All illuminated signs must comply with Chapter 234, Lighting, Outdoor, § 234-7J, of this Code
C. 
No sign shall have blinking, scrolling, flashing, or fluttering lights, nor shall any device be utilized which has a changing light intensity, brightness or color, or gives that illusion.
D. 
The full number of illuminating elements thereof shall be kept in satisfactory working condition or immediately repaired or replaced. Signs that are only partially illuminated shall meet all electrical requirements for that portion directly illuminated. All electrical wiring shall be in conduit and not exposed to the elements or external streets in any way. All electrical signs shall have a disconnecting switch located in a readily accessible place.
E. 
The direct nonreflected light from a primary light source shall not create a traffic hazard to operators of motor vehicles on public and/or private roadways.
F. 
The light from any illuminated sign shall be so shaded, shielded, or directed that the light intensity or brightness will not be objectionable to the surrounding areas. No light shall shine directly onto adjacent property.
G. 
No sign within 50 feet of a residential use or residentially zoned property shall be illuminated unless the sign is visibly obstructed from view from the residential use or property. This restriction shall not apply to signs identifying residential subdivisions or multifamily developments.