​Updated Thornton Sign Code

**Effective August 1, 2017**

Summary

On June 13, 2017, City Council voted to approve an ordinance to repeal and reenact Article VII of Chapter 18 of the Thornton City Code pertaining to signs.  The modifications were made in light of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Reed v. Town of Gilbert (2015), which clarified content neutrality in the context of municipal sign regulation.  The information below pertains to signage on private property, and do not govern signs on public property.  The new regulations are effective August 1, 2017.

The ordinance updates regulations based on sign structure, consolidates sign types, updates terminology, clarifies and simplifies administration, and amends various sections and subsections to update definitions and other provisions.

The modifications do not result in a significant change to the total amount of signage allowed on private property.  Below are the key updates and revisions.  The ordinance, in its entirety, can be downloaded here:

Updated Sign Code

For a summary of temporary signage and enforcement, click here: City Code Requirements for Temporary Signs

Key Updates and Revisions

  • All references to sign types that include or imply a particular message have been removed.  Examples include drive-in, drive-through, informational, and site signs.
  • The exemptions list has been updated.  Examples include the deletion of specific exemptions for scoreboards and historical plaques; generalization of exemptions for flags, and temporary decorations.  Additions include an exemption for signs that are not legible or intended to be read from the public rights-of-way or private streets, and an exemption for signs that are required by City, State, or Federal law.
  • The category of multi-tenant signs has been removed.  Larger buildings and properties in more intense zone districts are still eligible for additional sign area.
  • The current sign provision for "commercial centers" was retitled to "large developments" to avoid the implication that only additional commercial signs are permitted.  These provisions apply to institutional, commercial, or other projects that meet the development criteria.  Large developments are allowed additional signage.
  • A noncommercial message may be "substituted" for any permitted commercial message on a sign, and vice-versa.  However, a commercial message that speaks to something happening off-site cannot be substituted for an allowed noncommercial or on-site commercial message.
  • Wall art and murals are treated as signs – and subject to sign size limits – unless the applicant receives special approval under a new process that allows for content-neutral review.  The applicant would need to receive the required approval for a special display from the Thornton Arts, Sciences and Humanities Council (TASHCO).  Approval is based on the display meeting specific criteria outlined in Section 18-772, which is intended to ensure the mural does not create a public safety concern.
  • Temporary sign provisions have been consolidated to include only two categories:
    • Temporary signs, which include freestanding signs, feather flags, and banners.  No permit is required, subject to size, height and setback requirements.
    • Special event signs, which are very similar to the existing provisions in the current Sign Code.  A permit is required.  Four permits per calendar year are allowed for a residential use, and six permits per calendar year are allowed for a nonresidential use.  Each permit is valid for up to 15 days.  Special event signs include additional freestanding signs, feather flags, and banners, as well as small and large balloons, inflatable devices, pendant strands, and air dancers.  The total amount of temporary signage allowed is based on the zoning district.
  • Electronic signs are now permitted on parcels larger than one acre in residential districts.
  • The Development Director has been granted authority to make minor adjustments to maximum sign size and height and to minimum setbacks and sign separation to address unanticipated site constraints.

For signage-related inquiries, please contact City Development at 303-538-7295 or citydevelopment@cityofthornton.net.