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Chapter 7.1 Section VII Signs & Billboards

A.      PURPOSES: This Section VII of this bylaw is adopted for the regulation and restriction of signs within the town of Holden in order to prevent or minimize damage to the environment, to protect and enhance the visual environment of this town and the safety, convenience and welfare of its residents.

B.      AUTHORITY AND INTERPRETATION: This Section VII of this bylaw is adopted as a zoning bylaw pursuant to Chapter 40A of the General Laws. This Section VII is also separately adopted as a general bylaw pursuant to Amendments 50 and 89 of the constitution of the Commonwealth and Chapter 93, 93D, 40 and 43B of the General Laws of Massachusetts and any and all other applicable enabling authority. This Section VII of this bylaw is hereby declared to be remedial and protective, and is to be so construed and interpreted as to secure the beneficial interests and purposes thereof.


1.      Enforcement: The Environmental Control Officer is hereby designated as the Sign Officer and is hereby authorized to enforce this bylaw. The Sign Officer is authorized to order the repair or removal of any sign and its supporting structure which in his judgment is dangerous, or in disrepair or which is erected or maintained contrary to this bylaw. Whenever a Sign Officer is designated, he shall send his name and address to the Outdoor Advertising Board.

2.      Permits and Fees: Except for window signs and awning signs re ferred to in sub-section F and except as provided in sub-section H, no sign shall be erected, altered or enlarged until a permit has been issued by the Sign Officer. Such permit shall be issued only if the sign complies or will comply with all applicable provisions of this bylaw and of any sign regulations adopted by the Board of Selectmen. A schedule of fees for such permits and signs, except those authorized by Subsection H, may be determined from time to time by the Board of Selectmen. The Board of Selectmen are specifically authorized to issue regulations gov erning the method of issuance and renewal of such permits and further regulations they deem necessary or appropriate in connection with the administration and enforcement of this Section and to ensure the neat appearance and safe condition of such signs, but no such regulation may permit any sign not permitted by this Section VII.

3.      Notice of unsafe signs: When any sign becomes insecure, in danger of falling, or otherwise unsafe, or if any sign shall be unlawfully installed, erected or maintained in violation of any of the provisions of this bylaw, the owner thereof or the person or firm maintaining same, shall upon written notice of the Sign Officer, forthwith in the case of immediate danger and in any case within not more than ten (l0) days, make such sign conform to the provisions of the Section VII or shall remove it. If within ten (l0) days the written notice is not complied with, the Sign Officer may remove such sign at the expense of the owner or the person or firm maintaining same.

4.      Lien upon the property: After removal of the sign by or on behalf of the Sign Officer, a notice shall be mailed to the sign owner stating the nature of the work and the date on which it was performed and demanding payment of the costs as certified by the Sign Officer, together with an additional l0% for inspection and incidental costs. If the amount specified in the notice is not paid within 30 days of the notice, it shall become a lien upon the real property of the sign owner and shall be subject to collection in the same manner as the real estate taxes. The owner of the property upon which the sign is located shall be presumed to be the owner of all sign thereon, unless facts to the contrary are brought to the attention of the Sign Officer.

5.      Application information: Applications for sign permits shall be filed with the Environmental Control Office and shall be accompanied by sketches showing the exact location of the proposed billboard, signs or other advertising devices. Said applications and sketches are to be made on forms furnished by the Environmental Control Office.

6.      Photo required: The owner of an unregistered, erected sign must submit a photograph of such sign to the Environmental Control Office when applying for a sign permit. The owner of a new sign must submit a photograph of such sign to the Environmental Control Office within fifteen (l5) days after erection. Applicants required to submit photos under this section may request in writing that the Environmental Control Office take said photo for a $5 fee, payable at the time of application.

7.      Identification Decal: Every billboard or sign erected under this section shall be erected in the exact location described in the permit, and shall bear its clearly visible permit decal to be placed on the top molding, at the left hand corner; provided, however, that whenever a sign on a single post, a plate number shall be placed on the face of the post under the sign. All permitted signs of licensed advertisers shall bear the clearly visible imprint on the license number.


1.      Movement: No sign shall contain any moving, flashing, or animated lights or visible or movable parts.

2.      Traffic and Directional Signs: Traffic and directional signs owned and installed by a governmental agency are permitted and are not subject to any of the terms and conditions set forth in this Section VII.

3.      Temporary Signs: Temporary signs or banners are allowed in any ā€œCā€ district by permit issued by the Sign Officer for a period of two weeks or less per permit, four times a year per business. Day of the week or similar special signs may be displayed one day per week for a period of 14 weeks, with two permits per calendar year. No more than four permits may be issued to any business in any year for temporary signs or banners or any combination thereof. The temporary signs shall not exceed eight (8) square feet in surface area, shall be sturdy in construction, permanently lettered with letters three (3) inches in height and be in good repair. Temporary signs shall be set back 2 feet from any sidewalk or 10 feet from a traveled way. The banners shall not exceed twenty (20) square feet and be in good repair. All temporary signs shall be placed inside after business hours with the exception of outside banners.

4.      Only One Sign: Only one sign containing the same advertising matter shall be placed upon the same exterior wall of a given structure.

5.      No signs in "Sight Triangle": No sign shall be placed in the area between 3-l/2 and l0 feet in height above the ground or sidewalk if it is located within the "sight triangle" as defined in Subsection H (2) of this bylaw.

6.      Public, Civic and Non-Profit Organizations: Non-temporary signs which do not comply with this Section VII and which identify public, or other non-profit, non-political organizations may be permitted by Special Permit as provided in this Section XI.J.

7.      Portable Signs: Portable signs are prohibited in all districts and no permit shall be renewed for any portable signs existing on the date of adoption of this amendment.

8.      No outdoor advertising shall be painted or affixed upon any fence, rock, utility pole or tree.

8a.     Unlighted directional signs indicating the route to, or location of, a lawful agricultural use located on another premises are permitted in all residential, commercial and industrial districts provided the following conditions are met: 1) the written consent of the owner of the property where the sign is to be placed is obtained; 2) the sign panel shall be no larger than three square feet; 3) the sign does not obstruct vision or sight line; 4) each agricultural use may have up to three directional signs provided said signs are each located on separate parcels of property; and 5) a permit is obtained from the sign officer. The sign shall be made of aluminum and mounted on a standard street sign pole not to exceed six feet in height.

9.      No permit will be granted for the erection of a billboard, sign or other advertising device which will, in the opinion of the Building Inspector, obstruct the visibility of another sign.


1.      One identification sign for each dwelling unit, provided such sign shall not exceed 2 sq. ft. in surface area, and it shall not be used other than for identifying the occupancy.

2.      One identification sign for each community facility or public utility use provided the sign shall not exceed l2 sq. ft. in surface area, and it shall be set back at least one-half of the required depth of the front yard.

3.      One unlighted temporary sign offering premises for sale or lease for each parcel in one ownership, provided, it shall not exceed 4 sq. ft. in surface area, and it shall be set back at least l0 ft. from the street lot line.

4.      One unlighted temporary sign of a painter or other artisan erected during the period such person is performing work on the premises on which such sign is erected, provided, it shall not exceed 4 sq. ft. in surface area, and it shall be set back at least l0 feet from the street lot line.

One standing sign for parcel developed for multi-family use, provided that such sign shall not exceed 20 sq. ft. in surface area and it shall be set back at least l5 feet from any street lot line and no part of such sign shall be more than l5 feet from the ground.

6.      One instruction sign for each dwelling unit, provided, such sign shall not exceed 2 sq. ft. in surface area. No limitation shall be imposed on "No Trespassing" signs.


1.      Any sign permitted in the "R" district subject to the same provisions.

2.      Non-accessory signs, subject to the provisions of sub-section H.

3.      Accessory Signs:

Each property containing an individual business is entitled to one principal sign for the front of the establishment to which it relates. This sign may be either a wall sign, projecting sign or standing sign. Each property containing multiple tenants shall be permitted one wall sign or projecting sign and one sign in the form commonly known as a ladder sign.

1.      A wall sign must be flat against the wall. A wall sign shall not project horizontally more than twelve (l2) inches therefrom (see drawing below marked exhibit "A") and the surface area of the sign may not exceed the lesser of (l) ten (l0) percent of the wall area to which it is attached to the building, or (2) twenty (20) square feet. Signs consisting of individual letters or devices cut into or securely affixed to the exterior wall of a building are permitted, provided that such letters or devices have a minimum depth of projection of one-fourth (l/4) of an inch.

2.      A projecting sign shall not project horizontally more than six (6) feet from the building nor exceed twenty (20) square feet in surface area, and it shall be erected at a height not less than eight (8) feet, nor more than fifteen (l5) feet from the ground or sidewalk, except that in no case shall a projecting sign extend above the highest point of the structure to which it is attached.

3.      A standing sign shall not exceed twenty (20) square feet in surface area and it shall be setback at least fifteen (l5) feet from any street lot line, and no part of the sign shall be more than fifteen (l5) feet from the ground. When the standing sign is in the form commonly known as ladder sign and identifies more than five (5) separate businesses, such sign may not exceed thirty (30) square feet in surface area.

4.      The use of the ladder format, defined as: a sign with a support post on each end which frames the business listing(s) on each sign, shall entitle the identified address to a sign setback of ten (10) feet from any street lot line and a total of twenty (20) square feet in surface area for one (1) and two (2) separate business listings, twenty-six (26) square feet in surface area for three (3) and four (4) separate business listings, thirty (30) square feet in surface area for five (5) or more business listings. Any address listing more than ten (10) separate businesses may request and receive at the discretion of the Building Inspector permission to split the business listings and erect two (2) ladder signs with no business to be listed on more than one of the two (2) signs and providing that such signage is uniform and furthermore that addresses which receive this exception follow the requirements stated above for each individual ladder sign.

b.      When a business also faces onto a public right-of-way or parking lot on the rear or side of the building, a secondary wall sign may be installed at the entrance on that side. Such secondary wall signs shall satisfy the dimensional requirements of sub-section VII-F-a-l above , except that the area of the secondary sign shall not exceed fifty percent (50%) of the area of the principal wall sign to which the establishment is entitled.

c.      In addition to the standing sign permitted in sub-section VII-F-a-3 above, there shall be permitted for shopping centers, plazas, and planned business developments one standing sign displaying only the plaza or center name, provided that such a sign must comply with the surface area, setback, and height restrictions for standing signs.

There is permitted one directory at each public entrance to the building. Such a directory shall be flat against the wall of the building and shall not exceed an area determined on the basis of one (1) square foot for each establishment occupying the building.

e.      There are permitted three (3) instruction signs for each lot street frontage, provided such signs do not exceed two (2) square feet in surface area. Instruction signs shall not exceed a height of six (6) feet if located on a building freestanding.

Gasoline filling stations, automobile repair garages, and automobile dealers may divide the one wall sign to which they are entitled into separate wall signs indicating the  separate  operations  or  departments  of  the  business; however, each such wall sign shall not exceed ten (l0) square feet, and the combined area of all such signs shall not exceed thirty (30) square feet. In addition, each establishment is entitled to one (l) standing sign, indicating the brand of gasoline or automobiles sold, which may have a maximum area of thirty-two (32) square feet and a height not exceeding thirty (30) feet to the top of the sign. The standard type of gasoline pump bearing thereon in usual size and form, the name or type of gasoline and the price thereof shall not be deemed to be a sign within the meaning of this bylaw.

g.      Time and temperature devices are permitted for all businesses. They may be standing, projecting, or attached to the wall and are subject to the regulations applicable to standing, projecting, and wall signs.

h.      Any sign listing shall be a minimum of one foot above the ground surface and shall otherwise be no greater in height than as designated herein.

Signs listing more than one business shall exhibit uniformity in color and materials among business sign listings within the same sign structure.
Standing signs including signs in the ladder format shall identify the street address of the building directly above the uppermost business listing at said address.

No sign, artificial light or reflecting device connected or used with a sign or otherwise located or displayed shall be permitted where such light creates a harmful or dangerous condition.

No sign shall be erected with lights of such brightness as to cause unreasonable glare or nuisance affecting pedestrians, drivers or neighboring businesses or residences.

m.      Signs shall be illuminated only by steady, stationary, shielded light sources directed solely on the sign without causing unreasonable glare. Sign shall not be illuminated from within unless they utilize light-colored letters and symbols on an opaque background, in order to avoid undue unreasonable glare radiating from the signs.

Window signs may be displayed without a permit, provided that the area of such signs shall not exceed thirty (30) percent of the area of the window glass in which the sign appears. However, repeated violation of this standard shall be cause for non-renewal of the permit for an establishment's principal sign. The Sign Officer shall send a written notice to the owner of the establishment detailing the date and type of infraction and keep a copy for his files. Five (5) infractions by one establishment during any two-year period shall be cause for non-renewal of a permit for an establishment's principal sign.


1.      Non-accessory signs subject to the provisions of Sub-section H.

2.      Any sign permitted in the "C" and "BO-P" district, subject to the same provisions of use, except that:

(a)     The maximum surface area of a sign, except for window signs and instruction signs, is 60 sq. ft., rather than as provided in Sub-section F.

(b)     A standing sign must be set back at least one-half the depth of the required front yard, rather than as provided in Subsection F.


l.      Unless exempted by the provisions of Section 32 of Chapter 93 of the General Laws of Massachusetts, no non-accessory sign shall be erected and maintained on any location within 300 ft. of any public way, park or playground if such sign exceeds 5 ft. in height and 8 ft. in length and is within public view from any portion of such areas.

2.      Any non-accessory sign erected or maintained within 300 ft. of any public way shall not be closer than 50 ft. to any other such advertising sign, shall not be closer to the public way than l00 ft. and shall not be placed at the corner of any public ways within the radius of l50 ft. from the point where the center lines of such ways intersect.

3.      The lowest portion of any non-accessory sign erected or maintained pursuant to these provisions shall be at least 3 ft. from the ground, and the entire structure including braces and supports shall be maintained in good repair, free of rubbish, vermin, and harmful insects and painted.


Accessory signs legally erected before the adoption of this bylaw which do not conform to the provisions of this bylaw may continue to be maintained subject to compliance with the requirements for a permit  in effect  as of  the adoption  of this bylaw, provided, however, that no such sign shall be permitted if, after the adoption of this bylaw, it is enlarged, reworded (other than in the case of theatre or cinema signs or signs with automatically changing messages), redesigned or altered in any substantial way, except to conform to the requirements of this bylaw and provided further that any such sign which has deteriorated to such an extent that the cost of restoration would exceed thirty-five percent of the replacement cost of the sign at the time of restoration shall not be repaired or rebuilt or altered except to conform to the requirement of this bylaw. Any exemption provided in this Sub-section I shall terminate with respect to any sign which:

1.      Shall have been abandoned

2.      advertises or calls attention to any products, businesses, or activities which are no longer sold or carried on, whether generally or at the particular premises or

3.      shall not have been repaired or properly maintained within thirty days after notice to that effect has been given by the Sign Officer.


1.      Purpose: This Sub-section J is adopted in an effort to balance the First Amendment rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution with the aesthetic interests of the Town as expressed in Sub-section A of this Section VII of this Bylaw.

2.      Definitions: For purpose of this Subsection J., a "political sign" is a sign of a non permanent nature relating to (a) a candidate for public office, (b) an issue which will be voted on at a town meeting or an election, (c) some other issue which may be of general concern, interest or controversy, or (d) a scheduled function, event or activity of a public or nonprofit organization. The word "sign" shall have the meaning assigned thereto in Section II of this By-law.

Regulations Particular to Political Signs: Political signs shall be subject to the following provisions and to no other provisions of this Section VII:

(a)     Political signs referred to in clauses (a) and (b) of Subsection J.2 above may be erected no sooner than sixty (60) days prior to the election or town
meeting at which the candidates or issue will be voted on and must be removed no later than five (5) days after such election or town meeting.

(b)     No political sign may be erected on any property without the permission of the owner of such property.

(c)     No portion of a political sign shall be located within two (2) feet of a sidewalk, or, if erected on property not separated from a street or way by a sidewalk, within ten (10) feet of the edge of the traveled way of such street or way.

(d)     A political sign erected in any "R" District or any Village District shall be no greater than six (6) square feet. A political sign erected in C, BO-P, I and I-Q Districts shall be no greater than twenty (20) square feet.

(e)     Political signs erected in any Historic District shall comply with the provisions of Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 40C, the Holden Historic District By-Law and the rules and regulations of the Holden Historic District Commission.

(f)     The provisions of Sub-sections C-1, D-1, D-5 and D-7 of this Section VII shall apply to all political signs.

Town of Holden 1204 Main Street, MA 01520
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