Sign Regulation Amendments

Background & Purpose

On July 20, 2015, the United States Supreme Court issued an opinion that requires the City and localities nationwide to overhaul their Sign Ordinances (see Reed v Town of Gilbert, AZ). This ruling allows localities to regulate signs only in terms of size, location and height in various zoning districts, but localities can no longer regulate signs based on their content, or what the sign says.

Chesapeake's previous ordinance was largely content-based meaning there are special regulations for special event signs, real estate signs, political signs and other temporary signs. This ruling required the City Attorney's office, with input from the Planning Department and Zoning Administrator, to develop one set of criteria for all content-based signs. This ordinance was processed under PLN-TEXT-2016-007.

For the most part, regulations for permanent signs are not changed. For temporary signs, changes were minimized as much as possible by renaming the sign from one that is content-based to one that is location-based. For those signs that could not be renamed, the least restrictive standards currently allowed in the underlying zoning district for temporary signs are now applied to all temporary signs.

This web page is intended to provide a portal of information on the Sign Ordinance re-write to educate stakeholders on the revisions. Initiating Resolution (PDF) of PLN-TXT-2016-007 on June 14, 2016, and supporting Memorandum from City Attorney (PDF).

Read this Summary of the Ordinance (PDF) changes to understand the new Sign Ordinance. In addition, Sign Ordinance Companion City Code Amendments (PDF) have been prepared to maintain consistency for mentions of signs in other City Code chapters.

Adoption Calendar

On November 14, 2017, City Council requested that the ordinance be brought back in phases for City Council's consideration and adoption. The adoption calendar was as follows:

Public Hearing Date

  • November 28, 2017
    Description: Signs prohibited in public right-of-way; definition of public service versus public safety signs; purpose and intent Sections 14-701 and 14-702. View the Phase 1 Sign Ordinance (PDF).
  • January 16, 2018
    Description: Sign Name changes from content-based to location-based for Section 14-700 only and City Code amendments. View the Phase 2 Sign Ordinance (PDF).
  • February 20, 2018
    Description: Temporary Signs. View the Phase 3 Sign Ordinance (PDF).
  • March 20, 2018
    Description: Permanent Signs and other clerical updates including name changes for other sections of the Zoning Ordinance outside of 14-700. View the Phase 4 Sign Ordinance (PDF).

Other Background Information

The Planning Commission held a live work session on January 11, 2017, available for viewing anytime.

A Stakeholders Education Open House was held at the Chesapeake Central Library, 2-4 p.m. on January 19, 2017. There was no formal presentation, this Presentation (PDF) was run continuously with several topic stations with staff, as this was open house format where stakeholders could ask staff questions on how the new ordinance may impact them.

A Planning Commission Public Hearing was held February 8, 2017.

A City Council Work Session was held March 14, 2017, with City Council Public Hearings on March 21, 2017, June 30, 2017, September 19, 2017, October 17, 2017, November 14, 2017, November 28, 2017, January 23, 2018, February 20, 2018, and March 20, 2018.

Do you have a specific question? Send your question to the email of the Department of Development and Permits with the following statement in the subject line: "New Sign Ordinance Question."