COUNTY OF ALBEMARLE
Fees for permitted temporary signs
Messrs. Tucker, Foley, Davis, Kamptner, Graham,
and Ms. McCulley
LEGAL REVIEW: Yes
July 6, 2005
ACTION: X INFORMATION:
At the request of several Board members, staff is working on two issues related to temporary signs for the Board's consideration.
Since the Board’s last discussion of item two, staff has been unable to meet with VDOT because Jim Utterback has been away from the office for an extended period of time. Also, additional research will be needed regarding realistic approaches to consider in addressing this issue. This item will be addressed at the Board’s next regularly scheduled day meeting.
Provide effective and efficient County services to the public
When a business or a non-profit holds a temporary outdoor event and intends to use signage to advertise the event, they must first obtain a zoning compliance clearance for $35 and a temporary sign permit for $35. The majority of applicants for these events are commercial enterprises; however, some of these applicants are non-profit organizations. (This zoning clearance fee is not charged for certain places, such as Sam's Club and Fashion Square, who have obtained blanket approvals. If multiple signs are applied for at the same time, only one sign fee is imposed.) The $70 combined fee is financially difficult for a non-profit to pay when they may not be clearing much income from the event, such as a car wash. Temporary signs are permitted for each establishment for a maximum of 15 days each, with a maximum of 4 permits per year. The most common sign violations are associated with temporary signs, with specific issues being related to: not obtaining a permit, having too many signs and erecting the sign beyond the time limits. Without a permit requirement, staff anticipates the number of signs and length of time signs are used would significantly increase.
While the Board can not waive fees without an amendment to the ordinance, on occasion, the Board has approved funding (donation) to a particular non-profit organization in the amount equal to their fees. Regarding a potential exemption for churches, as specific issues raised at a recent Board meeting, the County Attorney's office has advised that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United State Constitution does not allow the County to exempt only religious institutions. However, by ordinance amendment, the County could exempt a larger class of organizations such as non-profits. We note there are a large number of non-profit organizations and it would be difficult to distinguish between them for exemptions.
The administrative cost of determining when the permit is a valid non-profit could easily exceed the revenue recovered by the fee. There are approximately 60 temporary sign permits approved each year, generating revenue of about $2,000. If this fee were reduced to $10, as an example, the revenue would drop by $1,400. While this nominal fee would not recover costs and results in a revenue loss, it still encourages people to come in to obtain a permit. Because temporary signs are so frequently involved in zoning violations, staff recommends we continue to require a sign permit.
Reducing the fee from $35 to $10 would ease the financial burden to groups doing fund raising, but would result in a $1,400 decrease in revenues. While this is not a significant amount, it does help to offset some of the cost associated with enforcement of the ordinance, which ultimately helps to control excessive signage.
Staff recommends that some permit fee remain in place, as it is believed that eliminating the fee completely would result in significantly more sign violations. Staff would not recommend excluding non-profit organizations from the fees as this would prove more expensive to administer than simply reducing all of the fees. If the Board is concerned with the cost required for temporary signs, staff recommends reducing fees for all temporary signs to $10 and subsidizing the difference with tax dollars.
Return to regular agenda