PORT ANGELES — The first potential revision to Clallam County’s sign code in more than 20 years will include making electronic signs a “non-conforming use,” meaning no new such signs will be allowed and existing signs can’t be altered, repaired or replaced.
The county commissioners will consider the proposed changes at a future meeting. They first must hold a public hearing before voting on the proposed new code, which is available at the March 1 planning commission section of the county’s website, www.clallamcountywa.gov.
The planning commission unanimously approved the proposed changes following a March 1 public hearing, its ninth meeting on the subject, one of which included a presentation by the Northwest Sign Council.
“So, if you come in and want a permit to change the sign and it will make it brighter or taller or something that would make it more non-conforming, you will not be allowed,” Principal County Planner Donella Clark explained in an email. “But if you want to swap out bulbs so it is less bright but the same size, that would be allowed. The intent is to let you maintain the sign for its lifespan and then you will need to replace it with a conforming sign.”
Clark wrote that the commissioners’ concern centered around safety and the distraction created by bright electronic signs.
“Part of the existing code that was a problem for staff is that it provided no standards for electronic signs, which is new technology that we’re having to deal with and not having any standards or not knowing how to permit those,” she told the planning commission.
The existing code also contains exemptions and other standards that are based on content, an approach that was invalidated by the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision that has come to be known as the Reed case, Clark told the commissioners.
Now they only can consider things such as size standards and lighting, she said.
“There were also kind of questions or incomplete or confusing kinds of lists in exempt and prohibited signs. And then in the code, it talks about certificate of compliance for permits of signage,” Clark said.
“So I just needed clarification of what the permitting requirements are, when a sign permit actually is necessary, and how it kinda interfaces with the building codes. And then there’s been the ongoing enforcement issues that are lacking,” she said.
Clark also said there’s new technology in signage that isn’t addressed and some definitions of signs that were missing from the code.
There were also incomplete or confusing kinds of lists in exempt and prohibited signs, she said.
“And then in the code, it talks about certificate of compliance for permits of signage,” Clark said. “So I just needed clarification of what the permitting requirements are, when a sign permit actually is necessary, and how it kinda interfaces with the building codes.”
Clark told the commissioners the revised code also included a massive reorganization for easier reading and added some definitions to help staff clarify some of the exempted and prohibited signs.
“We clarified the permitting requirements. We added some standards for monument signs, giving them some base requirements, asking for some bottoms, side frames and a top,” she said.
“We simplified the non-conforming section so that it was more clear what qualifies as a non-conforming sign. And then the enforcement section was rewritten to hopefully streamline that process so that we could get compliance more quickly of the signs that are existing in the code that have not received permits.”
Reporter Brian Gawley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.