Sign Code Changes on the Horizon

November 7, 2011

On Nov. 17 the Truckee Town Council will be voting on the town planning commission’s recommended changes to the municipal code pertaining to signs which will most certainly have an impact on local businesses.

The purpose of the proposed code changes is to ensure the minimum safeguards of life, health, property and public safety. In addition, the stated purpose of these changes to the code is to preserve the unique character of the town by regulating the size, height, design, quality of materials, construction, location, lighting and maintenance of signs and sign structures.

To begin, the Town of Truckee requires that a sign permit be issued to a licensed contractor, preferably one with a C-10, D-42 or C-45 license. Historically, the town has also issued sign permits to general contractors.

In regard to Truckee’s designated historic district, a number of changes are proposed. Now, any permanent signs planned for buildings that lie within these boundaries, are subject to an additional historic design review.

The current code requires that a sign plan application be submitted for review with a building permit application. A sign plan application must adhere to the following requirements: 1) the sign must be allowed in the proposed zoning district (commercial signs are not allowed in residential areas); 2) the sign must comply with all the applicable codes and standards, 3) the sign must be consistent with the design guidelines set forth in the codes, including those stipulated within the historic design guidelines, if applicable and 4) the sign cannot impair the design integrity and character of its location. There are, of course, exceptions including new signs which are consistent with a previously approved comprehensive sign plan and signs that are not visible to anyone from anywhere (for example, signs erected in an interior courtyard).

Changes are also expected in regard to sign requirements for multi-tenant projects such as a shopping center or apartment complex. The purpose of a comprehensive sign plan is to ensure that the design of all signs integrates well with the architectural plan for the complex. Approval of a comprehensive sign plan is required for all multi-tenant projects. Once a comprehensive sign plan has been approved for a center, any future signs for that project will be reviewed for compliance with that plan. All comprehensive sign plans must be drawn to scale, and outline provisions to avoid damage to the building envelope from sign installation and removal.

The final set of changes to the code are set forth in the requirements to use and display temporary signs. First, before any temporary sign may be erected, a sign permit application must be submitted and approved. The proposed sign must comply with all codes and regulations, approved engineering standards, any specific or master plan requirements and any comprehensive sign plan previously approved. Temporary signs may only be displayed on a private property that is conducting business, may not be attached to any permanent structure of any kind, may not be illuminated, may only be displayed for a short period of time, and may not exceed more than 25 square feet of space or 25 percent of a window area.

Since licensed sign contractors are required by law to understand and abide by all codes and regulations, and are liable for any failure to do so, it makes good business sense to employ a licensed sign contractor when anticipating the purchase and installation of a sign, just as you would hire a general contractor to build a residence or commercial building.

This article and last week’s installment, also on signage, was written by paralegal Carol Ritter, and by her employer, attorney Glen Van Dyke of the Van Dyke Law Group, which has offices in Truckee, Eldorado Hills, San Francisco and Las Vegas. Van Dyke has represented thousands of residential and commercial property owners and homeowners’ associations in the resolution of disputes over the construction of their homes or buildings. Property owners who have questions about possible legal issues concerning licensed contractors and designers in both California and Nevada can call 877-868-7013 for more information.

Media Coverage

Sierra Sun November 9, 2011

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