Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Arlington Rules for Temporary Sidewalk Signs

What exactly are the rules concerning commercial signs on public land, like sidewalks, roadways, and telephone poles.  I asked Arlington County if they had a clear statement of what the rules are and where to file a complaint - after all, the rules were just amended.  I was referred to Sec. 34 of the Zoning Ordinance.  So, guessing that there is no clear statement of what the sign rules are that the average citizen can understand, I thought I would have a go at it.

Yes, I am sick of ugly signs that block sidewalks or litter our telephone poles.  No, I am not a practicing attorney in Virginia.  Yes, this is zoning ordinance - so imagine trying to translate the language of a Irken Invader - now imagine trying to translate the language of a drunk babbling Irken Invader - and that's what its like to try to read zoning ordinances (which is why it would be nice if the county would provide some plain english information).

Temporary Sidewalk Signs

A "temporary sidewalk sign" is "A temporary, self-supporting sign made of durable material 45 and located on the sidewalk in front of a use for which such a sign is allowed." Sec. 34.B as amended

A temporary sidewalk sign can be displayed without a permit if (Sec. 34.E as amended)
  • It's maximum size is 7 sq ft, maximum height of 3.5 ft
  • Only one per entrance (with entrances no closer than 200 feet. If closer than 200 feet, than only one sign is permitted)
  • It doesnt have its own lighting
  • Signs are permitted only during business hours
  • Sidewalk is located
    • On sidewalks were there is a minimum of six foot clear walkway (not clear if that is with - or without the sign)
    • Not in the clear walkway for the site
    • Within two feet of the building face, or within the landscaping or utility zone with at least one foot between the sign and the curb
    • Not in tree pits not covered with metal grates
  • Signs are self supporting
Parking garages have their own additional rules.


Arlco provides the following information about how to report a violation of a zoning code (like the sign rules)
To make a complaint please call (703) 228-3232 between the hours of 8:00am and 5:00pm, Monday through Friday or email us. All complaints will be taken and addressed by one of our administrative staff personnel. You can also file a complaint on-line by clicking our Investigation Request Form   and the request will be sent to our staff in a timely manner.
You can help in our investigation of your concern by:
  • Reporting to staff the correct address where the problem is located. Having the exact address is very critical and most helpful to inspectors when investigating the complaint.
  • Clearly state the problem as it deals with Code Enforcement. Remember, we cannot see the problem you see while on the phone. Give specific details and problems as it relates to the nature of your call.
  • Our administrative staff will initiate a case and assign it to the district inspector for that area. We will service that case in 3-5 business days.
Sometimes other agencies or departments are responsible for investigating your complaint. We will advise you of that department’s phone number and contact name if possible and you can speak directly with that agency.
My recommendation - take a picture of the problematic sign, and include it with your complaint. 

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