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The City of Chesapeake recognizes the business community’s need to promote their individual products and services. In order to promote safe, attractive and functional highway vistas, the City adopted a uniform set of regulations related to signs. Signs are considered accessory structures which are regulated in Section 14-700 through 14-710 of the Chesapeake Zoning Ordinance (CZO). The regulations are referred to as the Sign Ordinance. As a business in Chesapeake, you are permitted certain specific types of sign displays while others are prohibited. Sign displays can be broken down into three basic types:
Any display of any letter, word, numeral, figure, device, emblem, logo, pictorial, presentation, illustration or decoration, symbol or trademark, flag, festoon or banner, or any combination thereof, which: (a) is used to announce, direct attention to, identify, advertise or otherwise make anything known; and (b) is visible from the public right-of-way or from adjoining property. Unless the context clearly indicates otherwise, the term sign, including the sign graphics, the sign area, the sign face, the placard, device, structure or fixture on which the display appears; and any support structure constructed for the purpose of supporting the display, regardless of whether any display is on the structure. The term “sign” is not intended to include independent works of art, such as sculpture, statuary, or paintings, unless such works contain words, symbols or images associated with a service or product being offered, produced or conducted at the site or on another site. (Reference – Section 14-703, Chesapeake Zoning Ordinance)
Permanent signs are the freestanding and wall-mounted signs that are customary to all business locations. A one-time permit is required for this type sign to be erected and usually remains in place for the life of the business. Permanent signs must meet certain size (sign area), height and setback requirements before they can be installed. For the most part, these types of signs are fabricated and installed by professional sign companies that are familiar with Sign Ordinance requirements.
Temporary signs are, as the name implies, displays of a temporary nature which are usually intended to promote a short term sale or other marketing event. Temporary signs can be both freestanding and building mounted. Temporary signs are divided into two groups:
- Signs that do not require a permit.
- Signs that require a permit.
The Sign Ordinance defines a temporary sign as:
A sign not permanently mounted to a building or into the ground... Signs attached by rope, string, chain, tape, paste and similar mechanisms, signs not rigidly attached to a supporting structure, signs made of paper, cloth and similar materials, and signs that are pushed, hammered or similarly put in the ground are presumed to be temporary signs.
The Sign Ordinance allows temporary signs without a permit only under the following conditions:
- The sign must be attached to the inside of a window at the business location;*
- The sign cannot exceed 12 square feet in surface area (Example-3 ft x 4 ft);
- The individual 12 square foot signs (above) cannot be arranged in such a way as to create segments which create a larger single display.
* Neon lighting inside a window is considered a temporary sign which is subject to the above requirements.
All other temporary signs are required to have permits from Zoning Administration ten (10) days prior to being placed on a business site. The following types of displays are permitted:
- Special sign displays used for purposes of advertising the opening of a new store, business or profession. Such displays may be erected for a period of up to thirty (30) days. Such displays may include the following: the use of additional signage, including pennants, balloons and similar materials, equal to twice the signs area normally permitted for the site. No off-site signs shall be authorized under this section.
- Special sign displays for a special sale or similar event occurring at an establishment. Such displays may be erected up to a maximum of two (2) times in any calendar year, for a period of up to fifteen (15) days each time. The permitted temporary signage shall be the same as that set out in subsection (a) above.
Find out more about Temporary Signs.
Prohibited signs are those signs for which a permit has not been issued or cannot be issued.
Prohibited signs fall into several different types:
- Festoons. Materials or devices, whether or not they contain printed material, which are attached to real or personal property with the purpose or effect of attracting public attention to an object or site. Festoons include flags, pennants, balloons, ribbon, tinsel and other similar materials, regardless of size. Festoons are deemed to be signs.
- Snipe Sign. A sign of any material whatsoever that is attached in any way to a communication tower, utility pole, fence post, tree or a similar object located or situated on public or private property.
- Signs displayed on motor vehicles are prohibited unless certain requirements are met. (See handout for signs on motor vehicles.)
- Signs that display flashing or intermittent lights or lights of changing degrees of intensity, except a sign indicating time or temperature with alternating changes of not less than a five second cycle.
- Signs that are displayed on a public right-of-way.
- Signs that are located off-site on another property, which is not connected to or a part of the business enterprise.
The above consists of portions of the Chesapeake Sign Ordinance which have been found to frequently affect an individual business location. There are other provisions that could impact a business location; therefore, you are urged to contact a Zoning Inspector whenever you have any questions related to sign requirements. Zoning can be contacted at (757) 382-8454.