Article 18. Sign Regulations

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Section 18.1. INTENT.

This article is established to protect and promote health, safety, general welfare and order within the City of Rock Valley through the establishment of uniform standards, regulations and procedures governing the type, number, size, structure, location, height, lighting, erection, use or display of devices, signs, or symbols serving as a visual media to persons situated within or upon public rights-of-way or private properties. The provisions of this article are intended to encourage opportunity for effective, aesthetically compatible, and orderly communications by reducing confusion and hazards resulting from unnecessary or indiscriminate use of sign devices. Hereafter no sign shall be erected, constructed, altered, or modified except as regulated by the provisions of this article, except a permit shall not be required for temporary or exempt signs.


For use in this section, the following terms are defined. Where terms are not expressly defined, they shall have their ordinary accepted meaning within the context for which it is used.

AWNING: A device made of cloth, metal, or other material affixed to and projecting from a building in such a manner that the device is either permanently fixed or so erected as to allow it to be raised or retracted and return to a flat position against the building when not in use.

BILLBOARD: A billboard includes all structures, regardless of the material used in construction, that are erected, maintained or used for public display of posters, painted signs, or wall signs, whether the structure be placed on the wall or freestanding. Billboards include pictures or other pictorial reading material which advertises a business or attraction which is not carried on, manufactured, grown, or sold on the premises where the said signs or billboards are located.

DISPLAY SURFACE: The area available on the sign structure for the purpose of displaying the advertising message.

ERECT: To build, construct, attach, hang, suspend or affix, and shall also include the painting of wall signs.

FACING (or SURFACE): The surface of the sign upon; against or through which the message is displayed or illustrated on the sign.

INCOMBUSTIBLE MATERIAL: Any material that will not ignite at or below a temperature of 120° F and will not continue to burn or glow at that temperature.

MARQUEE: A permanent roofed sign structure attached to and supported by the building.

PERSON: Any one being, firm, partnership, association, corporation, company or organization of any kind.

PROJECTION: The distance of which a sign extends from or beyond the building line.

SIGN: Any identification, description, illustration, or device visible to the public which is affixed to or represented directly or indirectly upon a building, structure or land and which directs attention to a product, place, activity, person, institution or business.

  1. Abandoned Sign: A sign which no longer correctly directs any person, advertises a bona fide business, lessor, owner, product, or activity conducted on the premises where such sign is displayed.
  2. Address Sign: A sign identifying street address only, whether written or numerical form.
  3. Awning Sign: A sign consisting of either an operating or permanently affixed awning containing letters, graphics, pictures, or other images which portray the business or other advertising of the establishment in which it is attached to. Awning signs shall not encroach more than four (4) feet out in front of a building, but shall meet all other size requirements addressed in this chapter. Permanent awnings may be lighted (from the backside); however, awning signs shall not have any flashing, strobe, or otherwise intermittent light emitting from the awning sign.
  4. Campaign Sign: A temporary sign promoting the candidacy of a person running for a governmental office, or promoting an issue to be voted upon at a governmental election.
  5. Combination Sign: Any sign incorporating a combination of features of a pole, freestanding, projecting or roof sign.
  6. Construction Sign: A sign placed at construction site identifying the project or the name of the architect, engineer, contractor, financier or other involved parties.
  7. Directional Sign: A sign erected on public or private property which bears the address and name of a business, institution, church, or other use or activity plus directional arrows or information on location.
  8. Flashing Sign: Any illuminated sign that has artificial light or color which is not maintained at a constant intensity or color when such sign is in use. A sign providing public service information, such as time, weather, date, temperature or similar information, shall not be considered a flashing sign.
  9. Freestanding Sign: Any sign or sign structure, not securely attached to the ground or to any other structure. This shall not include trailer signs as defined in this section.
  10. Governmental Sign: A sign which is erected by a governmental unit.
  11. Illuminated Sign: Any sign which has character, letters, figures, designs or outline illuminated by electric lights or luminous tubes as a part of the sign proper.
  12. Information Sign: Any sign giving information to employees, visitors or delivery vehicles, but containing no advertising or identification.
  13. Joint Identification Sign: A free-standing sign which identifies a subdivision, a multiple residential complex consisting of three (3) or more structures, a shopping center consisting of three (3) or more separate business concerns, an industrial area, an office complex consisting of three (3) or more structures or any combination of the above.
  14. Non-Conforming Sign: A sign which lawfully existed at the time of the passage of this Ordinance or amendments thereto but which does not conform to the regulation of this ordinance.
  15. Pole Sign: Any sign which is supported by structures or supports in or upon the ground and independent of support from any building.
  16. Projecting Sign: A sign, other than a wall sign, which projects perpendicular to the wall surface of a building or structure, and is supported by a wall of the building or structure
  17. Real Estate Sign: A business sign placed upon a property advertising that particular property for sale, for lease or for rent.
  18. Roof Sign: A sign erected upon or above a roof or parapet of a building or structure.
    1.    Swinging Sign: A sign installed on an arm or spar that is not, in addition, permanently fastened to an adjacent wall or upright pole.
    2.    Temporary Sign: Any sign, banner, pendant, valance or advertising display constructed of cloth, canvas, light fabric, cardboard, wallboard or other light materials, with or without frames, intended to be displayed for a limited period of time only.
    3.    Trailer Sign: Any sign mounted on a vehicle normally licensed by the State of Iowa as a trailer and used for advertising or promotional purposes.
    4.   Wall Sign: All flat signs of solid face construction placed against a building or other structure and attached to the exterior front, rear or side wall of any building or other structure. Such signs may extend no more than twelve (12) inches from the surface of the building or structure to which they are attached. Wall signs are also known as flush mounted signs.

SIGN AREA: That area enclosed by one contiguous line, connecting the extreme points or edges of a sign. The area shall be determined by using the largest area or silhouette visible at any one time from any one point. This does not include the main supporting sign structure. Only changeable copy areas of marquee or canopies shall be considered in determining the total sign area.

SIGN STRUCTURE: The supports, uprights, bracing and framework for a sign including the sign area. A sign structure may be a single pole and may or may not be an integral part of the building.

STREET LINE (or PROPERTY LINE): The point where the street right-of-way line begins and the private property line ends.

STRUCTURAL TRIM: The molding, battens, cappings, nailing strips, latticing and platforms that are attached to the sign structure.


Section 18.3. EXEMPT SIGNS.

The following signs are allowed without a permit but shall comply with all other applicable provisions of this ordinance, and subject to the removal of signs procedures outlined in Section 18.8.

Any official notice authorized by a court, public body or public safety official.

Integral signs, Memorial signs or Professional name plates not exceeding two (2) square foot in area, and attached to the building, including names on buildings, date of construction, commemorative tablets and the like, which are a part of the building or structure.

Any flags or flagpoles of a government or other non-commercial institution, such as schools.

Religious symbols and seasonal decorations within the appropriate public holiday season.

Real estate signs (on-site) are permitted in any district, advertising for sale, rental, or lease of premises or buildings on which they are located. The area of such sign shall not exceed four

(4) square feet in size shall be permitted in any case. Real estate signs in any commercial or industrial districts shall not exceed sixteen (16) square feet in size. Illuminated real estate signs are not permitted. At the date of closing, signs shall be removed within forty-eight (48) hours.

Address Signs identifying street address only, whether in written or numerical form.

Construction Signs as a non-illuminated sign announcing the names of architects, engineers, contractors, future use, and other individuals or firms involved with the construction, alteration, or repair of such building (but not including any advertisement of any product). Such signs shall be confined to the site of the construction, alteration or repair and shall be removed within one (1) year of the date of issuance of the first building permit or when the particular project is completed, whichever is later. One (1) sign, not to exceed 32 sq. ft. shall be permitted on the project site.

Political signs as allowed by Section 306C.22, Code of Iowa and campaign signs as allowed by Section 68A.406-yard signs, Code of Iowa. Campaign signs shall remain for no longer than forty-five (45) days prior and seven (7) days after the election for which they were intended and shall be removed by the owner of the property on which they are located. All campaign signs shall be confined to private property.

Government signs of a public, non-commercial nature to include safety signs, danger signs, trespassing signs, traffic signs, signs indicating scenic or historical points of interest, memorial plaques and the like, when signs are erected by order of a public officer or employee in the performance of official duty.

Directory signs which identifies the business, owners, manager, or resident occupant and sets forth the occupation or other address information but contains no advertising. There may be one directory sign per lot not to exceed two (2) square feet of area per business or resident occupant.

On-site Directional and Parking Signs intended to facilitate the movement of vehicles and pedestrians upon which the sign is located. Signs shall not exceed six (6) square feet of area.



All Residential Districts.

  • Signs pertaining to permitted and conditional uses are allowed in residential districts subject to the following regulations.
  • Home occupation signs are permitted pursuant to Section 16.5 of this ordinance.
  • Signs, for non-residential businesses located in residential areas, shall be limited to no more than 32 square feet on one freestanding or ground sign not to exceed a height of six feet (6’) from the ground to the top of the sign structure. One additional wall mounted sign not to exceed four (4) square feet is also permitted for non-residential businesses.
  • One on-site sign pertaining to the sale, lease or rent of the land or building shall be allowed per residential property.
  • Signs shall not encroach or extend into the public right-of-way, and shall not obscure or interfere with any traffic control sign, signal or device.
  • Bulletin board and announcement signs shall be permitted in any residential district for charitable, educational, religious or other public uses but may not exceed 32 square feet in size and must be set back a minimum of fifteen feet (15’) from all property lines. The height of such signs shall not exceed six feet (6’).

Prohibited Signs:

  1. All flashing type signs are prohibited.
  2. Internally illuminated or audible signs are prohibited.
  3. Off-premise signs and billboards are prohibited.
  4. Any lighted sign that impairs the vision of drivers is prohibited.

Permitted Signs:

  1. Address sign 9. Joint Identification sign
  2. Real Estate sign 10. Wall sign
  3. Government sign 11. Ground sign
  4. Campaign sign 12. Directional sign
  5. Combination sign 13. Freestanding sign
  6. Construction sign 14. Government sign
  7. Information sign 15. Pole sign
  8. Temporary sign


All Other Zoning Districts.

  1. Signs and billboards in conjunction with permitted and conditional uses are allowed subject to the following regulations.
  2. Signs shall be limited to those identifying uses conducted on the property, or necessary for directional purposes, or used to advertise the sale or lease of real property on buildings on which displayed, or identifying the commercial enterprise by name or symbol.
  3. The total aggregate sign area shall not exceed 200 square feet.
  4. The total aggregate sign area for service stations, gas stations or convenience stores shall be limited to 250 square feet.
  5. Wall signs, awning signs, swinging signs, or projecting signs located in the central business district may project over the right-of-way. No wall sign shall extend more than 12 inches beyond the face of the building. Canopies, marquees, awnings, swinging signs or projecting signs shall be attached to a wall and maintain a clearance of at least fourteen feet (14’) above the sidewalk or grade level below the lowest point of the sign.
  6. For the purposes of this section, the sign area allowed for the signs described above shall:
    1. For freestanding letters be computed by taking the area enclosed within the smallest rectangle needed to completely encompass each word or insignia of the sign.
    2. For signs other than freestanding letters, be computed by taking the total area of the facing or the total area within the outer edge of any existent border of the sign.
  7. Wall-mounted signs shall not project more than four (4) feet above the roofline.
  8. All signs shall be fixed and shall not be moving or audible. No illumination shall be intermittent or flashing. Internally illuminated signs for purposes of a scrolling marquee for information or advertising purposes is permitted as long as the message is not flashing.
  9. Billboard type signs are limited to one hundred (100) square feet, and must not impair sight distance or create a traffic hazard. Billboards are not permitted in the central business district.
  10. Multiple signs are permitted and may include only one wall sign to be placed on the principal use structure, and one independent structure located not more than 150 feet from the principal building.

Permitted signs:

1. Address sign

7. Combination sign

13. Flashing sign

2. Awning sing

8. Construction sign

14. Freestanding sign

3. Campaign sign

9. Directional sign

15. Government sign

4. Illuminated sign

10. Pole sign

16. Roof sign

5. Information sign

11. Projecting sign

17. Swinging sign

6. Joint Identification sign

12. Real estate sign

18. Temporary sign

19. Wall sign



Any sign type may be granted conditional use status after review by the Board of Adjustment and subject to any conditions deemed appropriate by the board.


Interference. No signs or attachments thereto shall be erected, placed or maintained by any person on rocks, fences, or trees; nor in such a manner as to interfere with the effective use of firefighting equipment or personnel, or any electric light, power, telephone, fiber optic, or cable wires or supports thereof. No sign shall be erected, located or maintained so as to prevent free ingress to or egress from any door, window or fire escape. No sign of any kind shall be attached to a standpipe or fire escape.

Face of sign shall be smooth. All signs or other advertising structures which are constructed on street lines, or within five feet (5’) thereof, shall have a smooth surface and no nails, tacks or wires shall be permitted to protrude therefrom, except electrical reflectors and devices which may extend over the top and in front of the advertising structures.

Signs not to constitute a traffic hazard. No sign or other advertising structure as permitted by this ordinance shall create a hazard to the safe, efficient movement of traffic. No signs shall be erected at the intersection of any streets in such a manner as to obstruct free and clear vision. No private sign shall contain words which might be construed as traffic controls, or be confused with any authorized traffic sign, signal or device; or which makes use of the words “STOP”, “LOOK”, “WARNING”, “CAUTION”, “DANGER”, or any other word, phrase, symbol or character in such manner as to mislead or confuse traffic. No sign or advertising structure as regulated by this ordinance shall have posts, guides or supports located in any street or alley.

Goose neck reflectors. Goose neck reflectors and lights shall be permitted on ground signs, roof signs and wall signs; provided, however, the reflectors shall be provided with proper glass lenses concentrating illumination on the area of the sign to prevent glare on adjacent property.

Signs in Right-of-Way. No signs other than government signs shall be erected or temporarily placed within any public rights-of-way except as may be specifically provided herein.

Temporary Signs. The temporary use of portable or moveable signs, search lights, banners, pendants, and similar devices shall be allowed in excess of and in addition to the sign limitations of this Article for continuous periods of no longer than thirty (30) consecutive days. No business proprietor shall be allowed more than three such periods in any calendar year.

Projection above Sidewalk and Setback Line. No wall sign shall be permitted to extend more than twelve inches (12”) beyond the building line. All signs, except wall mounted signs, located over public rights-of-way or any public or private access route (sidewalk, mall, etc.) shall be located a minimum of fourteen feet (14’) above grade. No sign shall be erected or maintained so as to prevent or deter ingress or egress from any building.

Signs Required by Law. All signs required by law shall be permitted in all districts.

Back to Back Signs. If any sign or sign structure is constructed so that the faces are not back to back, the angle shall not exceed thirty degrees (30°). If the angle is greater than thirty degrees, the total area of both sides added together shall be the calculated sign area.

Roof Signs. Roof signs shall not be permitted except for a business sign that is attached to the parapet wall and extending above the building height except where no alternative is available as determined by the Board of Adjustment.

Illumination. All externally illuminated signs shall be constructed so as to direct the source of light away from adjacent properties or public streets.

Animated Signs. Animated signs may be allowed as a conditional use requiring a hearing before the Board of Adjustment.

Electronic Message Board Signs. Electronic message board signs that display the time and temperature or provide changing and scrolling messages are permitted provided that such signs do not flash or change text at rapid intermittent rates.

Premises to be kept free of weeds, etc. All ground signs and the premises surrounding the same shall be maintained by the owner thereof in a clean, sanitary and inoffensive condition, and free and clear of all obnoxious substances, rubbish and weeds.

Setbacks for Signs. No portion of the sign area or sign structure of any sign shall encroach closer than five feet (5’) from the property line.

Double Frontage. Lots having frontage on two streets or on a street and an alley shall be permitted to provide the maximum number and square footage of signs on each of the opposite ends of said lot, provided however, that not more than the maximum number of square feet of signs per frontage may be viewed simultaneously.


Section 18.7. SIGN PERMITS.

It shall be unlawful for any person to erect, alter, or relocate within the city any sign or other advertising structure as defined in this ordinance, without first obtaining a sign permit and making payment of the fee required by this section.

Application for Sign Permit. The permit application shall contain information on location of the proposed sign structure or building of which the sign is to be attached, the names and addresses of the sign owner and of the sign erector, position of the sign in relation to nearby buildings, drawings showing the design, size, method of construction or attachment to a building and location of the sign, and such other information as the Zoning Administrator may require ensuring compliance with this ordinance and all other ordinances of the city. All sign permits shall indicate or show the inscription or text of what the sign will say or show. Signs located along a State primary highway a State sign permit will also need to be included with the application.

Permit Issued. It shall be the duty of the Zoning Administrator, upon the filing of an application for a sign permit to examine such plans and other data and the premises upon which it is proposed to erect the sign or other advertising structure, and if it shall appear the proposed structure is in compliance with all the requirements of this ordinance and all other ordinances of city, the sign permit shall then be issued.

Sign Fees. Every applicant, before being granted a sign permit, and to defray administrative costs of processing requests for sign permits, shall pay to the City Clerk a fee in the amount established by the City Council.

Nullification. A sign permit shall become null and void if the work authorized under a sign permit has not been completed within six (6) months after date of issuance.

Permit Revocation. Any permit holder who fails to comply with a valid order of the Zoning Administrator within the allotted time period, or who fails to pay reasonable removal or repair expenses shall have the permit as to such sign or signs revoked, and another permit for the erection or maintenance of such sign or signs shall not be issued to said permit holder for a period of one (1) year from the date of revocation.



All signs and sign structures shall be properly maintained and kept in a safe, orderly condition. Signs shall also maintain a neat and orderly appearance in which the sign is legible and can be easily read. All parts and supports shall be properly painted. Any sign or sign structure which is rotted, unsafe, deteriorated, defaced, or otherwise altered, shall be repainted, repaired, or replaced by the property owner or agent of the property owner upon which the sign is located, within thirty

(30) days after written notice by the City of Rock Valley. Such notice shall include a statement explaining the alleged violations and deficiencies, an order to repair or remove said sign, and an explanation of the consequences of failure to comply with said order. If the permit holder fails to remove or alter said sign so as to comply with the order, said sign or other advertising structure may be removed or altered to comply by the Zoning Administrator at the expense of the permit holder, or owner of the property on which it is located. The permit holder may appeal the order of the Zoning Administrator to the Board of Adjustment and, if such an appeal is on file, the compliance period shall be extended until following the Board of Adjustment’s decision on the matter. If, however, the Zoning Administrator finds that any sign or other advertising structure poses a serious and immediate threat to the health or safety of any person, he/she may order the removal of such sign summarily and without notice to the permit holder.

Abandoned, obsolete or dilapidated signs which no longer advertise a bona fide business conducted, product sold, or service provided shall be taken down and removed by the owner, agent or person having the beneficial use of the building or structure upon which such sign may be found within ninety (90) days from date of notice provided by the city. The owner of the property on which the sign is located shall have ninety (90) days from date of notice to remove any such sign. If after the expiration of the ninety (90) day period, the sign has not been removed, the city may cause the sign to be removed and any expenses may be charged back to the property owner.



Nonconforming signs shall be brought to compliance upon change of ownership or occupancy of the premises.


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