Clallam County sign code bans new electronic signs, billboards

Clallam County commissioners have unanimously approved an updated sign ordinance regarded as a compromise that bans future electronic signs as well as billboards.

“So I’ll just say that, from the beginning of this process, I have been in favor of the full ban on electronic signs,” Commissioner Mike French said on Sept. 12.

“I still am. … It’s a safety issue. It’s a light pollution issue. We are a rural county, and we should preserve that character.”

However, French added: “I do think this is a reasonable compromise and I’m happy to join it, understanding also that, as the city of Port Angeles changes their sign code, we should then make our sign code follow in the urban growth area.”

Two members of the county planning commission, Tom Butler and Kenneth Reandeau, had argued that all should be banned.

County Principal Planner Donella Clark said that any electronic sign not in the eastern Port Angeles urban growth area can be kept.

She added that schools and fire districts will be able to maintain their electronic signs, she said.

Clark also said all the billboards in the county have not been permitted since 2001 and have continued as “pre-existing non-conforming uses.”

“So when those are no longer able to be maintained, they will go away,” she said.

“This new sign ordinance also reflects that billboards are not allowed.”

According to a staff memo to the commissioners, electronic signs are prohibited outside of Port Angeles’ eastern urban growth area unless such a sign displays a price per unit of a fixed item, such as gasoline.

Electronic signs within Port Angeles’ eastern urban growth area are limited to one sign on the property and to 32 square feet for a multiple business complex sign and must have automatic dimming capabilities.

The signs must be no greater than 0.3-foot candles above ambient light during both day and night. A foot candle is enough light to saturate a one foot square with one lumen of light (amount of brightness of a light bulb).

The messages must not contain animation and also must remain static for a minimum of 10 seconds and change instantaneously, avoiding startling flashing or distracting movements.

Finally, the messages should relate to the business, but sign owners are encouraged to advertise events in the county if requested by a community organization.

The commissioners conducted public hearings on April 11 and May 2 and sent the proposed ordinance back to the planning commission.

The planning commission voted 6-2 at its June 7 meeting to forward the ordinance back to the commissioners, upholding the prohibition on new electronic signs.

The commissioners discussed that version of the ordinance at their Aug. 14 work session.