Sign Code Update


Regulations governing the installation, maintenance, and replacement of signs in the City of Spokane are found at SMC 17C.240. This section of the municipal code was last updated in 2009 and several things at the local and federal have changed since that time.

The City's Comprehensive Plan and current sign code prohibit the installation of new off-premise signs (commonly referring to billboards). However, SMC 17C.240.250 allows for legally existing billboards to relocate if their removal is necessitated by a governmental public works project. With the construction of the North Spokane Corridor there have been relocation applications for billboards that will be removed for the construction of the freeway. Many of these relocations have been within the historic Hillyard Business District; an area zoned "center and corridor" and designed for pedestrians. Significant public investment has gone into this area to make it pedestrian oriented and auto accommodating.

On April 10, 2017 the City Council unanimously adopted Emergency Ordinance C35490 imposing an immediate moratorium on the relocations of off-premise signs into areas of Spokane having a center and corridor zoning designation. On May 22, 2017 the City Council held a public hearing on this issue, adopted findings of fact supporting the need for an emergency declaration and extended the moratorium for six months. On October 9, 2017, the City Council passed Ordinance C35555 extending the moratorium for an additional six months.

In addition to the local concerns there is also a need to update the code in light of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, Reed v. Town of Gilbert (2015). This case provided new guidance on the long standing issue of sign regulations, First Amendment free speech concerns, and content neutrality. The decision was focused exclusively on non-commercial speech and will require most jurisdictions nationwide to update their sign codes or risk constitutional challenges.

City staff has also identified several updates that will improve administration and make the code clearer for staff and applicants.

On June 14, 2017 a workshop was held for the City's Plan Commission and volunteers for a work group were selected. The work group was comprised of City staff, one Plan Commissioner, and a representative from the Community Assembly, real estate community, and sign code industry. The work group will review the current code as well as staff's proposed revisions and provide recommendations that will be presented at a future Plan Commission workshop. The City Council passed Ordinance C35577 on January 29, 2018, which will become effective March 17, 2018.

*Tentative Project Schedule

Project Activities Dates
Staff Audit April-June
Plan Commission Workshop June 14, 2017
Work Group Meetings July-August
Mtg. 1 July 14 (PDF 62 KB)
Presentation (PDF 955 KB)
Mtg. 2 July 28 (PDF 66 KB)
Presentation (PDF 142 KB)
Meeting Materials (PDF 104 KB)
Mtg. 3 August 8 (PDF 62 KB)
Presentation (PDF 202 KB)
Meeting Materials (PDF 104 KB)
Mtg. 4 August 24 (PDF 61 KB)
Presentation (PDF 342 KB)
Meeting Materials (PDF 215 KB)
Mtg. 5 August 31 (PDF 71 KB)
Presentation (PDF 374 KB)
Meeting Materials** (PDF 253 KB)
Digital Open House September 12-14, 2017
Plan Commission Workshop September 13, 2017
Presentation (PDF 120 KB)
Additional Materials (PDF 901 KB)
Plan Commission Workshop September 27, 2017
Presentation (PDF 129 KB)
City Council Study Session September 28, 2017
Presentation (PDF 110 KB)
Plan Commission Public Hearing October 11, 2017
Presentation (PDF 1.0 MB)
Additional Materials (PDF 66 KB)
City Council Public Hearing February 2018

*All items listed in this section are estimates and are subject to change as the project develops.

**Please note this meeting was cancelled due to scheduling conflicts.


Adopted Ordinance C35576effective 03/17/2018 (PDF 5.2 MB)

Adopted Ordinance C35577 effective 03/17/2018 (PDF 4.6 MB)

Plan Commission Recommended Code (PDF 896 KB)

DRAFT Plan Commission Finding of Fact, Conclusions, and Recommendation (PDF 107 KB)

Post Plan Commission Recommendation – Updated November 8, 2017 (PDF 1.3 MB)

Current Sign Code – SMC 17C.240

Proposed Sign Code – Draft SMC 17C.240 (PDF 897 KB)

Proposed Changes (PDF 97 KB)

Proposed Sign Code by Sections

Moratorium - Ordinance C35490 (PDF 3.8 MB)

Moratorium Findings of Fact (PDF 3.6 MB)

SEPA Checklist (PDF 83 KB)

SEPA Determination (PDF 82 KB)

Supplemental Code Cleanup Items

As a result of the proposed sign code update, there are additional changes in other chapters of the Spokane Municipal Code being proposed in order to maintain consistency throughout the standards. These changes include incorporating definitions from Chapter 17A.020 into the existing Sign Code Chapter 17C.240, amending language for the signage standards related to home occupations and existing neighborhood commercial structures, as well as directing users to the existing sections for standards related to mobile home parks and mini-storage facilities. The signage standards mobile home parks and mini-storage facilities have not changed, there is now a note in table 17C.240-1 and 17C.240-2 directing people to the existing regulations for this type of signage. Workshops on these proposed housekeeping items have been held with the City's Plan Commission on October 25 and November 8. A Plan Commission public hearing on these changes occurred on December 13, 2017. The City Council passed Ordinance C35576 on January 29, 2018, which will become effective March 17, 2018.

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