At its Regular Meeting on June 5, 2017, the Board of Supervisors ordained and enacted the 1033 Amendment to Signs and Billboards, Chapter 19 of the Ferguson Township Code of Ordinances.
The Township Planning & Zoning staff have prepared these Frequently Asked Questions about the revisions:
Why did the Township update the Signs and Billboards Ordinance?
In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the Reed vs. Town of Gilbert case, which required municipalities to enact content-neutral sign ordinances. The case also clarified the level of constitutional scrutiny that should be applied to content-based restrictions on speech. In order to be in compliance with the ruling, the Township adopted a newly prepared Signs and Billboards Ordinance that is content neutral.
How are signs regulated in Ferguson Township?
The display of signs in Ferguson Township is regulated by the type, area, height, location, and the number of signs permitted on a property. (Section 4.1). The Township also wants to ensure the right of free expression under the First Amendment.
What if I want an illuminated sign on my property?
Signs can be illuminated as long as the illumination falls within the standards set forth in Section 4.2 and meets the requirements of Chapter 4, Outdoor Lighting Regulations in the Ferguson Township Code. Commercial, Office, and Industrial Uses are permitted to have external illumination, but in most cases, a permit is required. The new ordinance provides a table with detailed information about what types of illumination is permitted by use.
If I want to place an Attraction Board on my property, what are some of the regulations I must follow to be in compliance with the ordinance?
An Attraction Board is also known as a Digital Display Sign, Message Center Sign, and Changeable Copy
Sign. These are regulated by type (attached to a freestanding sign), height (if separated from a freestanding
sign, may not project higher than 15 feet), area (10 square feet per side), and number of signs permitted
(1 per freestanding sign). Attraction Boards shall not contain red electronic lettering and are not permitted in
Are there any signs that are prohibited in the Township?
Yes, Section 6 outlines prohibited signs which include, but are not limited to, abandoned signs; signs placed on parked vehicles with the primary purpose of providing signage not otherwise allowed in this Ordinance; mechanical movement signs, including revolving signs; and signs within the Township Right-of-Way.
What is the Township Right-of-Way?
The Right-of-Way (ROW) is that area between the sidewalk and street or that area between utility poles
and the street. At right is a visual example of the Right-of-Way; the green area is where signs are prohibited.
Areas of the ROW may vary from street to street and by ownership (i.e. PennDOT, Township, Private).
Does the Township exempt any signs?
Yes, some signs are exempt. Section 7 outlines the signs that are exempted from the Ordinance. A few examples are holiday and seasonal decorations, address signs, flags, art and murals, temporary signs, educational agricultural event signs and as part of the update, Farmland Preservation Signs. The Township does allow the following signs to be placed within the Right-of-Way: official traffic signs, government/regulatory signs, public signs, private drive signs, tourist orientated directional signs (not to exceed 3 square feet), auction signs, and yard/garage sale signs. Exempt signs do not require a permit.
Can I have more than one sign on my property?
In some cases, you can. Exempt signs are not included in the determination of the type, number, or area of signs allowed on the property. Two (2) non-residential (large and small) temporary signs can be placed on a property if the property falls within the requirements of Section 8.2.A.I of the Ordinance. Table 9 provides a snapshot of the regulations set forth in Section 9, Section 10, and Section 11.
Do I need a permit to erect a sign?
In most cases, yes, you do need a permit to erect, alter, or relocate a sign within Ferguson Township. Signs that are exempt from permit requirements include the following: exempt signs as specified in Section 7; real estate signs, temporary construction signs, temporary political signs, temporary event, auction, garage/yard sale signs; personal expression signs, or daily advertising signs.
What is a Personal Expression Sign?
A personal expression is an on-premises sign that expresses an opinion, interest, position, or other non-commercial message. The image at right is an example. Personal expression signs are exempt from permit requirements.
11. How do I obtain a permit?
A sign permit application is available at the Ferguson Township Municipal Building located at 3147 Research Drive, State College, or you can download. Once the application is completed, submit to the Township Sign Officer for processing. The permit becomes null and void if the work is not completed after 24 months. Section 12 outlines this process in full.
Do I have to renew my permit?
With the exception of exempt signs and residential development signs, all signs have an annual license fee established by resolution and adopted as part of the Township’s annual Fee Schedule. Please check the details within the Ordinance to confirm, or call the Township Sign Officer.
What is a nonconforming sign?
A sign lawfully existing or under construction on the effective date of this ordinance, which does not conform to one or more of the provisions of this ordinance. This type of sign may be continued in operation and maintained indefinitely as a legal nonconforming sign subject to compliance with the requirements in Section 14.
Does the Township have the authority to remove signs that are in violation of the Ordinance?
Any person having a sign in violation of the Ordinance, an unsafe sign, or an abandoned sign will be given written notice and in some cases, will have the sign removed. Section 15 outlines this process in detail. It is also important to note that landowners must grant permission to place a sign on their property.
What actions can I take if I want relief from the requirements of this Ordinance?
The Zoning Hearing Board of Ferguson Township is vested with hearing appeals and variance requests. Section 16 outlines the process for any appeal or request for a variance.
What are some of the major changes to the new ordinance compared to the repealed ordinance?
Ferguson Township Planning & Zoning Staff were charged with preparing a “business friendly” ordinance. We reached out to the business and development community as we were updating the ordinance and received useful information to include in the Ordinance. The new ordinance includes the allowance for Electronic Message Center signs and exempts more signs than the previous ordinance. More than one commercial sign is now permitted in areas where they were not permitted before, and businesses were required to erect one sign only. These changes were implemented because of the complaints the Sign Officer received over the past five (5) years.
View Signs and Billboards Ordinance FAQ
View the 1033 Amendment to Signs and Billboards, Chapter 19 of the Ferguson Township Code of Ordinances
View online under New Laws, Code of Ordinances (Click on Ord. No. 1033)