§ 156.130  SIGNS.
   (A)   Purpose. This subchapter is established to regulate the area, height, location and structural type of signs in the town to promote the health, safety, and general welfare of the community by protecting property values; minimizing visual distractions to motorists; and protecting and enhancing the image, appearance and economic vitality of the town.
   (B)   Applicability. Signs located within the town shall be erected, relocated, refaced or altered only in accordance with the provisions of this chapter and all other applicable laws, ordinances and regulations.
   (C)   General provisions.
      (1)   Location.
         (a)   All signs are deemed to be accessory to the principal use and shall be located entirely on the same lot as the principal use, except as provided in division (F)(4) below.
         (b)   Signs and sign structures may not obstruct ingress and egress to any window, door, fire escape, stairway, ladder or opening intended to provide light, air, ingress or egress for any room or building as required by law.
         (c)   Signs shall be set back from the right-of-way as specified herein.
         (d)   Building-mounted signs shall be flush-mounted against the plane of a building wall and shall not extend beyond the perimeter of any building edge, canopy border or roof line, except as provided for porch signs in division (F)(3)(b)6. below.
         (e)   Projecting signs shall not project more than four feet in a perpendicular fashion from the building face to which they are attached.
         (f)   Wall signs shall not extend more than 12 inches in depth from the building face to which they are attached.
         (g)   No permanent, freestanding sign shall be located within a public right-of-way or within 30 feet of the center-line of any public thoroughfare.
         (h)   Any sign that obstructs corner visibility or visibility at a driveway between a height of 2 feet and 10 feet is prohibited.
      (2)   Sign lighting.
         (a)   All lighting must be oriented or shielded so that light and glare reflects away from streets and adjacent property.
         (b)   External sign lighting shall be directed toward signs and shall be shielded in a manner so as to illuminate the sign face only. Signs with external lighting shall be lit from the top down to avoid the glare and sky illumination characteristics of spot lighting or up lighting. Internally lit or back lit signs must be appropriately shielded to keep glare and light from rising above the top of the sign.
         (c)   No sign regulated by this chapter may utilize a revolving beacon light, flashing, revolving, changing and/or rotating light.
         (d)   All signs in which electrical wiring and connections are to be used shall require a permit and shall comply with the North Carolina Electrical Code and be approved by the Building Inspector.
      (3)   Sign structures. Sign structures shall not be illustrative in nature. Any portion of a sign structure which is intended to inform, persuade, advertise or visually attract attention shall be considered part of the sign.
      (4)   Anchoring and construction specification.
         (a)   All freestanding signs shall have self-supporting structures erected on or permanently attached to concrete foundations, concrete footings or concrete embedment.
         (b)   All signs and sign structures shall be constructed and designed according to generally accepted engineering practices, to withstand wind pressures and load distribution as specified in the North Carolina State Building Code, as adopted and amended by the town.
         (c)   When a sign or outdoor advertising structure becomes structurally unsafe, the Building Inspector shall give written notice to the owner thereof that the same shall be made safe or removed within ten days of receipt of the notice.
      (5)   Maintenance and removal. Should any sign become in danger of falling or is deemed unsafe by the Building Inspector, the owner or the person or firm maintaining the sign, shall upon written notice from the Building Inspector, secure or remove the sign within 10 business days. In the case of immediate danger, the sign shall be secured or removed as specified by the Building Inspector. If the sign is not removed or secured, the Inspector or his or her designated agent may initiate legal procedures to obtain the necessary court orders to remove the signs at the expense of the owner or lessee thereof.
      (6)   Abandoned signs. Any freestanding sign relating to any business or other use shall be removed by the owner of the sign or property owner within 12 months after the business or activity has been vacated or terminated. All other signs relating to any business or other use shall be removed by the owner of the sign or property owner within 90 days after the business or activity has been vacated or terminated. If the sign has not been removed after the removal time has expired and after proper written notification has been issued, the town may initiate legal procedures to remove the signs at the expense of the owner or lessee thereof.
      (7)   Sign measurements. For the purpose of this chapter, the area, in square feet, of any sign shall be computed by the smallest square, triangle, rectangle, circle or combination thereof which will encompass the entire sign. In computing the sign area in square feet, standard mathematical formulae for known or common shapes will be used. In the case of irregular shapes, straight lines drawn closest to the extremities of the shape will be used. Where a sign has 2 or more faces, the area of all faces shall be included in determining the area of the sign, except that where 2 faces are placed back-to-back and are at no point more than 2 feet from one another. The area of the sign shall be taken as the area of the larger face if the 2 faces are of unequal area; if the areas of the 2 faces are equal, then the area of 1 of the faces shall be taken as the area of the sign.
   (D)   Exemptions. The following signs are exempt from the requirements of this division except for applicable provisions contained in division (C) above:
      (1)   Government signs;
      (2)   Product dispensers and point-of-purchase displays;
      (3)   Indoor signs other than window signs;
      (4)   Signs which are less than one square foot in area; and
      (5)   Signs which are not visible from road, rights-of-way, beach, and waters of the Atlantic Ocean and currituck sound, are exempt from the requirements of this division except for the applicable provisions contained in divisions (C)(2), (C)(4), (C)(5), (C)(6), and (E), but not including the provisions in (E)(2).
      (6)   Signs and notices posted along privately maintained roads or commonly held properties by a formally established property owners association for the purpose of traffic direction, public notice or public safety.
   (E)   Prohibited signs. In all zoning districts the erection, construction, location or the use of any sign described below is prohibited as follows, unless otherwise permitted in this chapter. Prohibited signs, if deemed to create a public safety hazard by the Zoning Administrator, may be removed immediately by the town; otherwise, prohibited signs shall be removed within 10 business days following written notification from the town:
      (1)   No sign shall be permitted on or protrude into a public or private right-of-way, street or vehicular passageway;
      (2)   No sign shall be posted on any telegraph, telephone, electric or other utility pole or structure or any tree;
      (3)   No sign shall be permitted whereby its location, nature or type constitutes a hazard to the safe and efficient operation of vehicles or passage of pedestrians and cyclists upon any public or private right-of-way, street or passageway. No sign shall be permitted that obstructs the line of sight of motorists or pedestrians at intersections, driveways, or along any public or private right-of-way, street or passageway. No sign shall be permitted that obstructs or resembles traffic signs or signals, or would tend to be confused with a flashing light of an emergency vehicle;
      (4)   No sign shall be permitted that contains or consists of banners, posters, ribbons, balloons, streamers, pennants, spinning parts or other similarly moving devices or ornamentation, except as specifically provided herein;
      (5)   No sign shall be permitted which contains or utilizes revolving or rotating beams of light. No flashing sign shall be erected. Also prohibited are portable spotlights or beacons used as advertising to draw attention to any use;
      (6)   No signs or lettering shall be displayed on a vehicle or trailer that is parked or located within 80 feet of the centerline of N.C. Highway 12 and on the same property as the business for which the sign is advertising, unless there is no other feasible location to park the vehicle on the property;
      (7)   No sign shall be located in any public or private waterbody, canal, ditch or other waterway, including the Atlantic Ocean and the surrounding waters of the town. This prohibition does not apply to government signs;
      (8)   Temporary, portable signs including sandwich board, A-frame or wind driven signs such as tethered balloons or other inflatable objects, except as otherwise provided in this chapter. A-frame or sandwich board signage may be permitted on decks and landings of commercial buildings, except as otherwise prohibited herein, but may not be ground or roof mounted;
      (9)   All outdoor advertising structures (billboards or off-premises signage) are prohibited. Any sign or outdoor advertising structure that violates any provision of any law of the state relative to outdoor advertising is prohibited;
      (10)   Roof signs that extend above the peak of the roof on which they are attached or whose area exceeds individually or in aggregate 25% of the roof area on which they are attached or more than 10% of the total roof area of an individual building. Roof signs shall not be attached to flat roofs. Roof signs shall in no case be taller than 10 feet from the lowest point of attachment to the roof. The height of a roof sign measured from the ground to the top of the sign cannot exceed the maximum height limit for the zoning district in which the sign is permitted;
      (11)   Any form of signage on a telecommunications tower;
      (12)   Any form of signage on a wind energy facility or solar energy system;
      (13)   Signs supported in whole or in part by water, air or gas in the Ocean and Sound Overlay District;
      (14)   Signs directed toward any public trust area as defined by CAMA;
      (15)   Signs related to a minor home occupation;
      (16)   Signs imitating or closely resembling official traffic or government signs or signals, excluding actual government signs;
      (17)   Electronic message board signs as defined in § 156.002; and
      (18)   Any other sign not expressly permitted by this section.
   (F)   Administration and permits.
      (1)   Sign permit and building permit. All signs greater than three square feet except window signs permitted by this chapter and exempt signs require a sign permit issued by the Zoning Administrator. No sign or outdoor advertising structure shall be erected or attached to, suspended from or supported on a building or structure, nor shall any existing sign or outdoor advertising structure be structurally altered, remodeled or relocated, until a sign permit has been issued by the Zoning Administrator. The Building Inspector shall issue a building permit for the erection or construction only for a sign which meets the requirements of this chapter and the Building Code of the State of North Carolina. Applications for sign permit to construct, or alter the structure of a sign shall be submitted to the town Zoning Administrator and accompanied by a plan showing the following:
         (a)   Area of the sign;
         (b)   Size, character, general layout and designs of signs;
         (c)   The method and type of illumination, if any, and construction specifications if applicable;
         (d)   The location proposed for the signs in relation to property lines, zoning district boundaries, right-of-way lines, public waterways and existing signs;
         (e)   A listing of all building and ground-mounted temporary and permanent signage on the premises;
         (f)   Additional information that will enable the Zoning Administrator to determine if the sign is to be erected in conformance with the requirements of this chapter; and
         (g)   Payment of fee to obtain sign permit and building permit (if one is required).
      (2)   Exemption from permits. The following types of signs are exempted from the sign permit requirements, but must comply with all other requirements of this chapter:
         (a)   Flags and other wind-driven devices, as defined in § 156.002 above, provided the standards of division (F)(4)(a) below are met;
         (b)   Any property for which a special event permit has been approved may install temporary signs or banners provided such signs do not exceed 48 square feet in sign area and do not encroach on any public or private right-of-way. These temporary signs or banners may be installed 10 business days before the event or activity and must be removed within five business days following the event or activity;
         (c)   Signs prohibiting persons from trespassing, hunting, fishing or swimming and warning of dangerous animals, not to exceed 2 square feet in area for each sign;
         (d)   Temporary window signage in conformance with the window signage requirements in division (F)(3)(b)4. below; and
         (e)   Residential signs. The total number of temporary residential signs shall not exceed three on any individual property. The following residential signs shall not require a permit.
            1.   Temporary banners, flags and balloons, limited to 3 consecutive days' duration.
            2.   One non-illuminated sign per street frontage, not to exceed 6 square feet in sign area. Such signs must be mounted within a substantial wood or metal frame (for example, typical signs used in the real estate industry for advertising sales).
            3.   Temporary, non-illuminated, lightweight signs, not to exceed 2 square feet in sign area (similar to yard sale or open house signs).
            4.   Non-illuminated signs mounted to the wall of a residence, not to exceed a total of 14 square feet in sign area.
            5.   Temporary signs less than 8 square feet in area, provided that these signs shall be limited to 90 days duration and do not encroach on any public or private right-of-way.
         (f)   Any property on which repair or construction work is actively occurring may install one additional, non-illuminated sign for each street frontage, not to exceed 12 square feet in sign area for residential signs or 24 square feet for commercial signs. The right to display this additional sign ceases when the work is completed.
      (3)   Permanent signs that require a permit.
         (a)   Residential signs. The following residential signs shall require a permit.
            1.   Residential identification signs. Maximum of two residential identification signs per entrance, not to exceed 32 square feet each in sign area.
            2.   Home occupation signs. Major home occupations approved per the standards of § 156.136 are permitted to install a single, nonilluminated sign not exceeding one square foot in area.
         (b)   Commercial signs. For each lot, tract or parcel in a commercial zoning district, 2 square feet of business sign area may be allowed for each linear foot of building frontage with a bona fide customer entrance. The sign area may be in a single sign or in a combination of wall-mounted, projecting, under-canopy, roof, porch or permanent window signs, subject to the following additional limitations.
            1.   Freestanding signs. One freestanding sign per lot not to exceed 64 square feet in area and not to exceed 12 feet in height shall be permitted. A freestanding sign allowance is in addition to the commercial sign allowance described in division (3)(b) above.
            2.   Wall-mounted signs. Signs placed against the exterior walls of buildings shall not exceed in area 20% of the exposed finished wall surface area on which they are attached. For multi-unit structures, the wall signage standards may be divided among the businesses per agreement of the businesses and property owner. Wall-mounted signs shall be flush-mounted against the plane of a building wall and shall not extend beyond the perimeter of any building edge, canopy border or roof line. Wall signs may be mounted to porch or deck railings; however, in no instance shall there be more than ten square feet of signage for each contiguous 12 linear feet section of railing. In cases where there is less than 12 contiguous linear feet of railing present, signage shall be limited to 20% of the area of the railing section to which it is attached.
            3.   Under-canopy signs. One under-canopy sign per occupancy, not to exceed 4 square feet in sign area.
            4.   Permanent window signs. Permanent (permitted) and temporary (exempt) window signs may be displayed on or adjacent to the interior windows of business establishments provided that all window signs in aggregate shall compose no more than 25% of the aggregate area of windows. The total area of all window signs shall not exceed 50% of the maximum permitted building or wall-mounted sign area for that business.
            5.   Roof signs. Roof signs shall not exceed individually or in aggregate 25% of the roof area on which they are attached or more than 10% of the total roof area of an individual building. Roof signs shall not extend above the peak of the roof on which they are attached. Roof signs shall not be attached to flat roofs. Roof signs shall in no case be taller than 10 feet from the lowest point of attachment to the roof. The height of a roof sign measured from the ground to the top of the sign cannot exceed the maximum height limit for the zoning district in which the sign is permitted.
            6.   Porch signs. One porch sign per occupancy, not to exceed 24 inches in height. Porch signs may extend above the edge of the fascia of the porch roof only and must designed so that the width of the porch sign is at least four times its height but no greater than 5 times its height.
            7.   Special regulations and allowances for commercial signs.
               a.   Where an occupancy is on a corner or has more than one street frontage, one additional freestanding sign and wall signs are allowed on the additional frontage, but the total signage permitted is subject to the limitations of § 156.124(F)(3)(b);
               b.   All awning, marquee and under-canopy signs shall have a minimum clearance of 80 inches over any pedestrian use area;
               c.   Awning signs shall be considered wall signs and subject to the same standards;
               d.   Notwithstanding the limit on sign area based on linear frontage of the building as described in division (3)(b) above, any independent retail business may have a minimum of 30 square feet of sign area. Further, in a group development or multi-tenant building, signage may be distributed among the tenants according to the aggregate building frontage and agreement for sign allowance distribution between the tenants and the property owner; and
               e.   For group development projects, additional signs may be installed within the lot in proximity to major internal pedestrian and vehicular travelways. No such sign shall exceed 20 square feet in area and 8 feet in height for group development projects less than 5 acres in area or 30 square feet in area and eight feet in height for group development projects 5 acres or more in area, nor be located closer than 50 feet to any street. These signs shall not be placed within 5 feet of the curb line of a service drive or travel lane. No more than 1 such sign may be permitted for each 2 buildings in a group development project. Freestanding signs may be permitted for group development projects in addition to the single ground-mounted sign permitted pursuant to division (F)(3)(b)1. The allowance for wall-mounted or freestanding signs is in addition to the business sign allowance in division (F)(3)(b) above.
      (4)   Temporary signs. The following non-illuminated temporary signs are allowed provided that the standards contained herein are met and that permits, if required, have been obtained.
         (a)   Flags and other wind devices. Ground-mounted and building-mounted flagpoles are permitted as commercial signs, subject to the following standards: flagpoles shall not exceed the maximum building height limit of the applicable zoning district in which they are located. Roof-mounted flagpoles are permitted only if the top of the pole is no higher than the building height limit for the district in which it is located and provided all other limitations of this chapter are met. No premises may display more than three like signs, each flag and pole shall conform to the height and setback restrictions of the zoning district in which they are located, and no like flag shall exceed 24 square feet in area. In addition, for any commercial use on a parcel, other flags may be permitted according to the following:
            1.   A maximum of 1 flag pole with no more than 2 flags per pole shall be permitted for each 25 linear feet of road frontage. A nautical flagpole with a yardarm or gaff shall be permitted to display no more than 5 flags per pole. Permits shall not be required for flags and flag poles; however, the standards herein must be met;
            2.   Wind-driven devices such as windsocks, decorative banners and similar devices (not including balloons and pennants) may be mounted to buildings, decks and porches provided they are not placed above the eave line of the roof on the building. Permits shall not be required for these devices; however, the standards herein must be met;
            3.   Sails, sailboards, kites or other similar apparatus mounted on the ground affixed to or in a similar fashion as flagpoles shall be considered as flags and subject to these restrictions;
            4.   All flagpoles shall be located outside of any right-of-way or easement area;
            5.   Flagpoles shall be located a minimum of 10 feet from all property lines except that this setback shall not apply to property lines abutting the sound; and
            6.   All flags and flag poles shall be maintained in good repair. Flags and flag poles that are worn, torn, faded, tattered or in need of repair shall be removed and repaired or replaced as soon as they reach that condition.
         (b)   Building-mounted banners as commercial signs provided that banners do not exceed 32 square feet in area, are displayed for no more than ten days at a time no more than 6 times per year with a minimum of 14 days between banner display per business during the tourist season from Memorial Day to Labor Day. These banners may be consecutive displays during the off-season, not to exceed the maximum allowable days per year. These banners may be mounted on the building or on deck railing or similar building features, or may be ground-mounted with posts or affixed to a permitted ground-mounted sign, subject to the location requirements of § 156.124(C)(1), provided that a permit has been approved by the Zoning Administrator and applicable fees and deposits as established by the Town Council to guarantee removal of those signs have been submitted.
      (5)   Nonconforming signs.
         (a)   Loss of non-conforming status. A non-conforming sign may lose its nonconforming designation if:
            1.   The sign is relocated or replaced; or
            2.   The structure of the sign is altered in any way except towards compliance with this chapter. This does not refer to change of copy or normal maintenance but shall include sign re-facing.
         (b)   Maintenance and repair of non-conforming signs. Non-conforming signs are subject to all requirements of this chapter regarding safety, maintenance and repair. However, if the sign suffers damage or deterioration equal to or in excess of 50% of the replacement value of the sign, it must be removed or brought into conformance with this chapter.
         (c)   Other standards for non-conforming signs.
            1.   No replacement. Another non-conforming sign shall not replace a nonconforming sign.
            2.   Repair. Minor repairs and maintenance of non-conforming signs such as repainting the existing graphics, electrical repairs and neon tubing repairs shall be permitted.
            3.   Alteration, relocation or replacement. Nonconforming signs, which are structurally altered, relocated or replaced, shall comply in all respects with the provisions of this chapter, except as specifically excepted herein.
            4.   Legally established non-conforming uses. New signs related to legally established non-conforming uses may be erected provided they comply with the sign requirements of the district in which the use is located.
      (6)   Signs to be removed by Zoning Administrator.
         (a)   Signs unlawfully placed in any street right-of-way or on any public property, including signs affixed to street signs and posts and traffic signs and posts, on any public utility pole, or within 30 feet of the centerline of any public thoroughfare may be removed by the Zoning Administrator or his or her designee without notice.
         (b)   A sign so removed will be held for a period not to exceed ten days and retrieval of the sign will incur a fee as prescribed in the adopted schedule of fees. Removal and disposal of illegally placed signs or posting of violation notices thereon shall not preclude the prosecution of any person for illegally placing those signs.
      (7)   Sign special deviations. The Town Council may, by special use permit, modify the requirements contained in this section in accordance with the following provisions:
         (a)   Special use permits shall be granted only in accordance with the procedures and limitations established for special use permits in § 156.155 below.
         (b)   Special use permits shall be granted only if:
            1.   The applicant has clearly demonstrated that requirements contained in this section will present a unique burden due to unusual topography, vegetation, building design or orientation, or lot shape; and
            2.   The Town Council has determined that the granting of a special use permit will not be inconsistent with the CAMA Comprehensive & Land Use Plan or the purpose of the sign regulations.
(Ord. 04-21, passed 10-6-2004, § 44; Ord. 05-09, passed 6-1-2005; Am. Ord. 08-03, passed 7-2-2008; Am. Ord. 09-002, passed 4-8-2009; Am. Ord. 10-02, passed 4-7-2010; Am. Ord. 15-03, passed 3-4-2015; Am. Ord. 17-01, passed 4-5-2017; Am. Ord. 17-04, passed 6-7-2017; Am. Ord. 21-01, passed 6-2-2021)