Legislative findings and purpose.
To promote the safety, convenience and enjoyment of public travel, to preserve the natural beauty of Wisconsin, to aid in the free flow of interstate commerce, to protect the public investment in highways, and to conform to the expressed intent of congress to control the erection and maintenance of outdoor advertising signs, displays and devices adjacent to the national system of interstate and defense highways, it is hereby declared to be necessary in the public interest to control the erection and maintenance of billboards and other outdoor advertising devices adjacent to said system of interstate and federal-aid primary highways and the Great River Road.
In this section, unless the context otherwise requires:
“Adjacent area" means an area which is adjacent to and within 660 feet of the nearest edge of the right-of-way of any interstate or primary highway or the Great River Road, which 660 feet distance shall be measured horizontally along a line normal or perpendicular to the center line of the highway.
“Business area" means any part of an adjacent area which is zoned for business, industrial or commercial activities under the authority of the laws of this state; or not zoned, but which constitutes an unzoned commercial or industrial area as defined in par. (k)
. In adjacent areas along the interstate system business areas shall be limited to commercial or industrial zones within the boundaries of incorporated municipalities, as those boundaries existed on September 1, 1959, and all other areas where the land-use as of September 1, 1959, was clearly established by state law as industrial or commercial.
“Center line of the highway" means a line equidistant from the edges of the median separating the main-traveled ways of a divided highway, or the center line of the main-traveled way of a nondivided highway.
“Commercial or industrial activities" for purposes of unzoned industrial and commercial areas mean those activities generally recognized as commercial or industrial by local zoning authorities in this state, except that none of the following activities shall be considered commercial or industrial:
Agricultural, forestry, ranching, grazing, farming and similar activities, including, but not limited to wayside fresh produce stands.
Activities normally or regularly in operation less than 3 months of the year.
Activities not visible from the main-traveled way.
Activities more than 660 feet from the nearest edge of the right-of-way.
Areas which are predominantly used for residential purposes.
“Erect" means to construct, build, raise, assemble, place, affix, attach, create, paint, draw, or in any other way bring into being or establish; but it does not include any of the foregoing activities when performed as an incident to the change of advertising message or customary maintenance of the sign structures.
“Great River Road" means any highway officially designated as part of the Great River Road system by the department and approved by the appropriate authority of the federal government and any highway designated as part of the Great River Road under s. 84.107
. Signs along the Great River Road shall be regulated as are signs along primary highways.
“Interstate highway" means any highway at any time officially designated as a part of the national system of interstate and defense highways by the department and approved by the appropriate authority of the federal government.
“Landmark sign" means a sign of historic or artistic significance, the preservation of which is consistent with the purposes of this section, as determined by the department, including signs on farm structures or natural surfaces.
“Main-traveled way" means the through traffic lanes exclusive of frontage roads, auxiliary lanes and ramps.
“Municipal welcome sign” means an official sign erected and maintained by a municipality that the municipality determines is necessary to inform motorists of the territorial boundaries of the municipality.
“Primary highway" means any highway, other than an interstate highway, at any time officially designated as a part of the federal-aid primary system by the department and approved by the appropriate authority of the federal government.
“Sign" means any outdoor advertising sign, display, device, notice, figure, painting, drawing, message, placard, poster, billboard, or other thing, which is designed, intended, or used to advertise or inform, any part of the advertising or informative contents of which is visible from any place on the main-traveled way of any portion of an interstate highway or primary highway.
“Unzoned commercial or industrial areas" mean those areas which are not zoned by state or local law, regulation or ordinance, and on which there is located one or more permanent structures devoted to a commercial or industrial activity or on which a commercial or industrial activity is actually conducted whether or not a permanent structure is located thereon, and the area along the highway extending outward 800 feet from and beyond the edge of such activity. Each side of the highway will be considered separately in applying this definition. All measurements shall be from the outer edges of the regularly used buildings, parking lots, storage or processing and landscaped areas of the commercial or industrial activities, not from the property lines of the activities, and shall be along or parallel to the edge or pavement of the highway.
“Urban area" means any area which is an urbanized area or urban place, as determined by the department under 23 USC 101
(a) and regulations adopted thereunder and approved by the appropriate federal authority. Maps of urban area boundaries shall be available for inspection at offices of the department and copies of such maps shall be provided at cost to anyone requesting the same.
“Zoned commercial or industrial areas" mean those areas which are zoned for business, industry, commerce or trade pursuant to a state or local zoning ordinance or regulation.
Conditional uses and special exceptions not considered.
No uses of real property that are authorized by special zoning permission, including uses by conditional use, special exception, zoning variance or conditional permit, may be considered when determining whether the area is a business area.
No sign visible from the main-traveled way of any interstate or federal-aid highway may be erected or maintained, except the following:
Directional and other official signs, including, but not limited to, municipal welcome signs and signs pertaining to natural wonders, scenic and historical attractions, which are required or authorized by law, and which comply with rules which shall be promulgated by the department relative to their lighting, size, number, spacing and such other requirements as are appropriate to implement this section, but such rules shall not be inconsistent with, nor more restrictive than, such national standards as may be promulgated from time to time by the secretary of transportation of the United States under 23 USC 131
Signs advertising the sale or lease of property upon which they are located if such signs comply with rules of the department.
Signs advertising activities conducted on the property on which they are located if such on-property signs comply with applicable federal law and the June 1961 agreement between the department and the federal highway administrator relative to control of advertising adjacent to interstate highways. No on-property sign may be erected in a location where it constitutes a traffic hazard. If the department issues permits for outdoor advertising signs, the department is not required to issue permits for on-property signs that conform to the requirements of this paragraph. On-property signs may be illuminated, subject to the following restrictions:
Signs that contain, include or are illuminated by any flashing, intermittent or moving light or lights are prohibited, except electronic signs permitted by rule of the department.
Signs that are not effectively shielded as to prevent beams or rays of light from being directed at any portion of the traveled ways of the interstate or federal-aid primary highway and that are of such intensity or brilliance as to cause glare or to impair the vision of the driver of any motor vehicle, or that otherwise interfere with any driver's operation of a motor vehicle, are prohibited.
No sign may be so illuminated that it interferes with the effectiveness of or obscures an official traffic sign, device or signal.
Signs located in business areas on March 18, 1972.
Signs to be erected in business areas subsequent to March 18, 1972 which when erected will comply with sub. (4)
Signs located in urban areas outside the adjacent area.
Landmark signs lawfully in existence on October 22, 1965.
Signs outside the adjacent area which are not erected with the purpose of their message being read from the main-traveled way of an interstate or primary highway.
Signs on farm buildings which are utilized by owners of the building for agricultural purposes if the signs promote a Wisconsin agricultural product unless prohibited by federal law.
Signs erected by the Crime Stoppers, the nationwide organization affiliated with local police departments, on or before October 14, 1997, without regard to whether the department has issued a license for the sign. The department may not remove a sign authorized under this paragraph unless the sign does not conform to federal requirements. The requirements under s. 86.19
do not apply to signs described in this subdivision.
Notwithstanding subd. 1.
, whenever a sign authorized under this paragraph requires replacement due to damage or deterioration, the department shall require the sign to be licensed under sub. (10)
and to meet all of the requirements of this section and s. 86.19
The department shall effectively control or cause to be controlled, the erection and maintenance of outdoor advertising signs, displays and devices that are erected subsequent to March 18, 1972 in all business areas. Whenever a bona fide county or local zoning authority has made a determination of customary use, as to size, lighting and spacing such determination may be accepted in lieu of controls by agreement in the zoned commercial and industrial areas within the geographical jurisdiction of such authority. In all other business areas, the criteria set forth below shall apply:
The maximum areas for any one sign shall be 1,200 square feet with a maximum height of 30 feet and maximum length of 60 feet, inclusive of any border and trim but excluding the base or apron, supports and other structural members.
The areas shall be measured by the smallest square, rectangle, triangle, circle or combination thereof which will encompass the entire sign.
The maximum size limitations shall apply to each side of a sign structure and signs may be placed back-to-back, side-by-side, or in V-type construction with not more than 2 displays to each facing, and such sign structure shall be considered as one sign.
Signs may be illuminated, subject to the following restrictions:
Signs which contain, include, or are illuminated by any flashing, intermittent, or moving light or lights are prohibited, except those specified in par. (bm)
and those giving public service information such as time, date, temperature, weather, or similar information.
Signs which are not effectively shielded as to prevent beams or rays of light from being directed at any portion of the traveled ways of the interstate or federal-aid primary highway and which are of such intensity or brilliance as to cause glare or to impair the vision of the driver of any motor vehicle, or which otherwise interfere with any driver's operation of a motor vehicle are prohibited.
No sign shall be so illuminated that it interferes with the effectiveness of, or obscures an official traffic sign, device, or signal.
Signs may contain multiple or variable messages, including messages on louvers that are rotated and messages formed solely by use of lights or other electronic or digital displays, that may be changed by any electronic process, subject to all of the following restrictions:
Each change of message shall be accomplished in one second or less.
Each message shall remain in a fixed position for at least 6 seconds.
The use of traveling messages or segmented messages is prohibited.
The department, by rule, may prohibit or establish restrictions on the illumination of messages to a degree of brightness that is greater than necessary for adequate visibility.
On interstate and federal-aid primary highways signs may not be located in such a manner as to obscure, or otherwise physically interfere with the effectiveness of an official traffic sign, signal, or device, obstruct or physically interfere with the driver's view of approaching, merging, or intersecting traffic.
On interstate highways and freeways on the federal-aid primary system no 2 structures shall be spaced less than 500 feet apart. Outside of incorporated villages and cities, no structure may be located adjacent to or within 500 feet of an interchange, intersection at grade, or safety rest area. Said 500 feet shall be measured along the interstate or freeway from the beginning or ending of pavement widening at the exit from or entrance to the main-traveled way.
On nonfreeway federal-aid primary highways outside incorporated villages and cities, no 2 structures shall be spaced less than 300 feet apart. Within incorporated villages and cities, no 2 structures shall be spaced less than 100 feet apart.
The spacing between structures provisions in subds. 1.
do not apply to structures separated by buildings or other obstructions in such a manner that only one sign-facing located within the spacing distances in subds. 1.
is visible from the highway at any one time.
Official and on-premises signs, as defined in 23 USC 131
(c), and structures that are not lawfully maintained shall not be counted nor shall measurements be made from them for purposes of determining compliance with spacing requirements.
The minimum distances between structures shall be measured along the nearest edge of the pavement between points directly opposite the signs along each side of the highway and shall apply only to structures located on the same side of the highway.
Signs shall not be erected or maintained which imitate or resemble any official traffic sign, signal or device.
Signs shall not be erected or maintained upon trees, or painted or drawn upon rocks or other natural features, except landmark signs.
Signs shall not be erected or maintained which are structurally unsafe or in substantial disrepair.
Signs outside of business areas which are lawfully in existence on March 18, 1972 but which do not conform to the requirements herein are declared nonconforming and shall be removed by the end of the 5th year from said date.
A sign lawfully erected after March 18, 1972 and which subsequently does not conform to this section shall be removed by the end of the 5th year after it becomes nonconforming.
Signs lawfully erected, but which do not conform to the requirements of sub. (3) (c)
, are declared nonconforming but are not subject to removal, except as otherwise provided in this paragraph. To allow such signs to exist, to perform customary maintenance thereon or to change the advertising message thereof, does not constitute a violation of sub. (3)
, but to enlarge, replace or relocate such signs, or to erect additional signs, shall constitute a violation subjecting the sign to removal without compensation, unless upon completion of such work all signs upon the property conform to the requirements of sub. (3)
“Copy" means the advertising or other information or images on a sign face created to communicate to the public.
“Copy change" means the process of substituting copy on a sign face, which may include removing a face and substituting another face or other processes such as painting on wood, metal, or vinyl, affixing printed paper or vinyl to the face, changing the message mechanically, or electronically changing the copy from a remote location.
“Customary maintenance" on a sign includes nailing, bolting, fastening, cleaning, and painting; replacing its components with equivalent or similar components; except as provided in this subd. 1. c.
, replacing structural components, including upright supports; making copy changes; upgrading existing illumination for energy efficiency or worker safety; adding catwalks or handrails to address safety; installing an apron to a sign structure to display identification of the sign owner; or replacing the sign face. “Customary maintenance" does not include repairs that involve, within a period of 36 consecutive months, replacing more than 60 percent of the wooden upright supports of a sign or replacing more than 30 percent of the length above ground of each broken, bent, or twisted upright metal support of a sign.
“Destroyed," with respect to a nonconforming sign, means that upright supports are physically damaged such that, within a period of 36 consecutive months, in the case of a sign structure with wooden upright supports, more than 60 percent of the supports are broken and, under normal repair practices, would need to be replaced or, in the case of a sign structure with metal upright supports, more than 30 percent of the length above ground of each broken, bent, or twisted support would, under normal repair practices, need to be replaced.
“Sign face" or “face" means the material components of a sign on which the advertising or other information is displayed including any trim, border, or molding.
“Substantial change," with respect to a nonconforming sign, includes increasing the number of upright supports; changing the physical location; increasing the square footage or area of the sign face; adding changeable message capability; or adding illumination, either attached or unattached, to a sign that was previously not illuminated. “Substantial change” does not include customary maintenance.
“Substantially the same," with respect to a nonconforming sign, means that no substantial change has been made to the sign since it became nonconforming.
Notwithstanding par. (a)
, signs described in sub. (3) (a)
, or (h)
that were lawfully erected but that no longer conform to applicable requirements are, upon notice by registered mail from the department to the sign owner, declared nonconforming but are not subject to removal, except as provided in subds. 4.
Subject to subd. 4.
, a sign described in subd. 2.
shall remain substantially the same as it was on the date it became nonconforming. To allow a sign described in subd. 2.
to exist, to perform customary maintenance on such a sign, or to change the advertising message on such a sign, does not constitute a violation of sub. (3)
Except as provided in this subdivision, to make a substantial change to a sign described in subd. 2.
or to erect additional signs shall constitute a violation of subs. (3)
. In determining whether a change to a sign constitutes a violation of sub. (3)
, the department may not consider any changes to that sign that no longer exist. If the department determines that a change to a sign constitutes a violation of sub. (3)
, the department shall notify by registered mail the sign owner and the owner of the property upon which the sign is located of the alleged violation. If the alleged violation is remedied within 60 days of receipt of the notice under this subdivision, the activity does not constitute a violation of sub. (3)
Except as provided in subd. 5. b.
, and notwithstanding subd. 3.
, a sign described in subd. 2.
that is destroyed is subject to removal without compensation.
Notwithstanding subds. 3.
, if a nonconforming sign is damaged or destroyed by a criminal or tortious act, the sign may be repaired or replaced. If the sign is replaced, the replacement sign may not incorporate any elements that constitute a substantial change from the sign that was damaged or destroyed. The repair or replacement of a sign under this subdivision is not limited to activities constituting customary maintenance.