[Adopted by the Town Board of the Town of Genesee 7-13-2015 by Ord. No. 15-9. Amendments noted where applicable.
The Town of Genesee regulates the type, number, size, height, placement/location and lighting of signs to ensure a balance of the visual environment of the Town. While the Town recognizes that the purpose of signs is to identify businesses and/or promote products and services to generate business, the Town of Genesee also knows that traffic safety, economic welfare, and aesthetic harmony must be considered. The Town of Genesee also promotes the public health, safety, welfare and comfort of the general public. All applications for sign permits are, therefore, reviewed for compliance with this chapter as well as the applicable Building Code.
Signs are regulated in the Town as follows:
The types of signs, words, terms, and phrases when used in this section will have the meanings ascribed to them, except where the context clearly indicates a different meaning.
- AWNING/CANOPY SIGN
- A nonilluminated projecting identification sign painted on or affixed flat to the surface of an awning or canopy and which does not extend vertically or horizontally from the awning or canopy.
- 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.
- Any sign at least 200 square feet but not more than 432 square feet in area per one side, no more than 28 feet in height and generally used to advertise a place of business or product.
- BULLETIN BOARD
- Any 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.
- 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 temporary 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.
- DIRECTIONAL SIGN
- A sign which advertises or directs patrons to an establishment off the main traveled highway.
- ELECTRONIC MESSAGE CENTER
- 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. Illumination 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 "awning/canopy sign."
- MEMORIAL SIGN
- Any sign which is cut into any masonry surface or when constructed of metal is affixed flat against a structure and not illuminated.
- MONUMENT SIGN
- A freestanding sign supported by a solid foundation on one base that is as 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.
- PRODUCT SIGN
- A sign which offers for sale perishable products produced on the premises.
- PROJECTING SIGN
- Any sign that is not attached to the ground and projects 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, lease or transfer of real estate.
- ROOF SIGN
- Any sign erected on or over the roof of a building.
- SANDWICH SIGN
- See "ground 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.
- 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 footage of a sign area, any exposed structure which supports a sign may not comprise more than one-third of the visible or exposed surface of one side of a total sign structure.
- SIGN STRUCTURE, TOTAL
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- WALL SIGN
- A sign which is attached to a wall of a building or structure and projects not more than 12 inches from such a 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.
The following signs are permitted without a permit, subject to the following regulations:
Product signs not exceeding 10 square feet in sign area for any one premises that pertain to the seasonal sale of perishable products produced on the premises.
Residential real estate signs not exceeding 10 square feet in sign area that advertise the sale, rental or lease of the premises upon which such signs are temporarily located.
Commercial real estate signs shall not exceed 32 square feet.
Bulletin boards for public, charitable or religious institutions shall not exceed 32 square feet in sign area. Such signs shall be set back from the property line at least 1/4 of the building setback requirements of the zoning district in which they are located and may be illuminated only to the extent necessary to permit reading of the sign.
Memorial signs, tables, name of building, and date of erection signs when cut into any masonry surface or when constructed of metal and affixed flat against a structure and not illuminated.
Parking lot signs shall include signs which are placed or displayed in parking lots to supply information to people using lots, including such information in respect to liability, entry, exit and directional information as necessary to facilitate the safe movement of vehicles served by the parking area. Handicap parking provision signs are also covered under this subsection. Such signs are not intended to be advertising signs and shall not display any advertising matter. Parking lot signs shall conform to the following specifications:
Location. Parking lot signs shall be permitted in all business, commercial, industrial, and institutional zones.
Maximum area. Incidental parking lot signs shall not exceed four square feet in area.
Maximum height. Incidental parking lot signs shall not exceed six feet in height, provided that signs identifying handicapped stall locations are mounted high enough to permit visibility of such signs while a vehicle is parking in the space.
Setbacks. Parking lot signs shall be subject to a five-foot setback from the right-of-way and adjacent property lines. These signs shall be installed so as not to present a hazard to traffic entering or leaving the premises.
Illumination. Parking lot signs may be internally illuminated in accordance with provisions of this chapter.
Rummage, estate or neighborhood sale signs must not be erected on or off the premises for more than three days, and be removed by sundown on the last day of the sale. Such signs must not exceed six square feet in size.
Home occupation and professional home office, where allowed, wall or window signs not exceeding six square feet in sign area, mounted flush against the dwelling and only internally illuminated.
Metal or masonry nameplates attached to a building and not exceeding four square feet in sign area.
The display of any political sign shall be permitted without a permit, subject to the following restrictions:
The sign area of political signs in other than residential areas shall not exceed 32 square feet unless otherwise permitted under § 12.03, Wis. Stats., and approved by the Town Board. The sign area of such signs displayed in residential areas shall not exceed 16 square feet. Campaign or political signs shall not be displayed earlier than 30 days before a primary, general or special election. No such sign shall have an electrical, mechanical or audio auxiliary component.
Political campaign signs shall not be displayed on any building or grounds that are owned, operated, or maintained by any public agency, or on any Town-owned post or traffic control device or on any pole, post or appurtenance owned or operated by any utility. Such signs shall be located only on private property or a privately maintained Town right-of-way adjacent to the private property and only with the property owner's or prior consent. Such signs shall be located so as not to constitute a danger to the traveling public.
The candidate or entity responsible for the erection or distribution of any political campaign sign shall be jointly and severally liable for the removal of such signs. All political signs must be removed within 48 hours of said election.
The Clerk, Election Inspector, Building Inspector, Public Works Superintendent and law enforcement officers of the Town may remove signs or posters and other advertising which is placed in violation of this article or the laws governing elections.
Community signage to promote periodic not-for-profit, civic, or community events and functions is permitted. Said signage must comply with all other conditions as stated in this chapter.
Address signs that display address numbers shall not exceed two square feet.
Flags. Flags shall not exceed 60 square feet. Flagpoles accompanying such flags shall meet all setback requirements and shall be limited to a height of 30 feet in residential areas and 40 feet in nonresidential areas. Any flag not meeting the criteria of this subsection shall be subject to height and area regulations as a ground pole sign and shall be included when figuring the amount of signage on a lot.
Signs for property designated by a federal, state or local government as an historic location, site or landmark, provided such sign does not exceed 24 square feet, unless approved by the Town Plan Commission.
Signs established by, or by order of, any governmental agency with Town Plan Commission approval.
Signs of a noncommercial nature and in the public interest erected by or on the order of public officers in performance of the officers' public duty, such as safety signs, danger signs, trespassing signs, traffic signs, memorial plaques, signs directing the traveling public to public and quasi-public facilities, or signs on public buildings or structures and the like are permitted.
No-trespassing signs, warning signs, and other such signs regulating the use of property when such signs do not exceed two square feet in area.
Off-premises signs indicating the names and locations of churches, charitable organizations, and community service organizations are permitted, provided that the sign area shall not exceed four square feet, shall be located off of the street right-of-way, and shall in no way obstruct the view of pedestrians or vehicular traffic. The signs must have a minimum spacing of 500 feet between any two signs in this category, except where there is a community service central display, unless approved by the Town Plan Commission.
Signs suspended above a walkway to identify a business, profession or industry conducted on the premises, provided:
Such signs shall not exceed 12 square feet in sign area per face.
Such sign shall extend no lower than eight feet above the area over which it is suspended.
Such signs shall identify only a building, business, profession or industry and bear no commercial message. Only one such sign shall be displayed per building entrance.
Construction signs which identify the architects, engineers, contractors and other individuals or firms involved with construction taking place on the premises, but not including any advertisement of any product, and signs announcing the character of the building enterprise or the purpose for which the building is intended. Such signs shall be permitted during the construction period to a maximum of 32 square feet. The minimum setback shall be 10 feet from any street right-of-way. The sign shall be confined to the site of construction and shall be removed within 30 days after the end of construction or issuance of an occupancy permit, whichever occurs first. No more than two such signs shall be permitted.
Incidental signs, if they do not exceed two square feet in surface area, and if such sign is a sign, emblem or decal designated to inform the public of goods, facilities or services available on the premises, and includes, but is not limited to, restrooms, hours of operation, acceptable credit cards, property ownership or management, phone booths, and recycling containers.
Signs permitted in commercial retail or customer service establishments shall be reviewed and approved by the Town Plan Commission and subject to the following conditions:
Public and institutional, community business (shopping center), business park, or industrial signs shall be subject to review and approval by the Town Plan Commission.
Signs shall not resemble, imitate or approximate the shape, size, form or color of railroad or traffic signs, signals or devices.
Signs shall not obstruct or interfere with the effectiveness of railroad or traffic signs, signals or devices.
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.
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.
Outdoor decorative or wall art shall only be allowed with approval by the Town Plan Commission.
Banners, pennants, streamers, balloons, inflatable signs, and other gas-filled figures are not permitted, except as a temporary sign, as may be permitted by the Town Plan Commission.
Billboard signs are not permitted, unless otherwise stated in this chapter.
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.
No sign shall be permitted which is animated by means of intermittent, scintillating, scrolling or traveling lights or any other device or means not providing constant illumination. Public service information signs and other electronic message center signs are permitted under special provisions of this chapter.
Unprofessional hand-painted signs erected as permanent outdoor advertising signs are not permitted.
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.
No portable signs shall be permitted, including but not limited to A-frame or T-frame signs and signs on trailer frames, whether or not the trailer wheels or the typeface have been removed, except where permitted as temporary signs set forth in this chapter.
Any sign on top of a roof is prohibited.
Overhead swinging signs, except those meeting the requirements for suspended signs, are prohibited.
No sign shall be placed on any communication, radio, or cell tower without the approval of the Town Plan Commission.
Signs placed on parked vehicles, boats, trucks or utility trailers which are visible from the 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 parking in designated parking spaces designed for their particular vehicle type.
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 by this chapter.
No signs which emit audible sound, odor, or visible matter are permitted.
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 as major change is made to the sign. Major changes include the changing the name or size, adding lights, or relocation.
All nonconforming signs shall be kept in good repair and in safe, neat, clean, and attractive condition. In the event signs are not kept in good condition or are demolished by any force whatsoever to the extent of 50% or more of their replacement cost at the time of the damage, any replacement signs 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.
For any sign existing on the date of adoption of this chapter that does not comply with the provisions of this chapter, such sign and any supporting structures may be maintained in their existing conditions. Nonconforming signs can be repainted or refaced, provided the height and landscaping requirements are met. 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 Town.
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.
Supporting structures for nonconforming signs may continue in use for a conforming sign if said supporting structures comply in all respects to the applicable requirements.
No sign other than those permitted for a residential use or agricultural use shall be permitted closer than 20 feet to the base setback line or to any other lot line, and any sign not directly related to the use of the premises on which it is located shall conform to the setback and offset requirements as would apply to a building in that district, unless otherwise approved by the Town Plan Commission.
No sign or other advertising media which creates a hazard or dangerous distraction to vehicular traffic, or a nuisance to adjoining residential property, shall be permitted.
A sign, not to exceed 12 square feet in area, for the purpose of advertising and directing patrons to an establishment off the main traveled highway may be permitted, except in a residential area, upon approval of the Town Plan Commission.
No freestanding sign shall exceed 20 feet in height from the ground, and no sign shall in any case exceed the maximum height limit for the district in which it is located.
All portable signs used for commercial purposes shall conform to the standards of this chapter and receive Town Planner approval. If installed for a continuous period of at least 14 days but less than six months, the Town Plan Commission shall review and approve said sign.
This chapter is not intended to regulate signs in a manner that conflicts with preemptive provisions of state law, or to impose unlawful restrictions on constitutionally protected speech, and therefore:
If any provision set forth in this chapter prohibits a sign in a manner that is expressly permitted by preemptive Wisconsin state law, such provision is waived and the applicable requirements of Wisconsin state law shall apply.
Notwithstanding any other provision contained herein to the contrary, noncommercial messages may be contained on any authorized sign.