TITLE 17

Highways

CHAPTER 11. REGULATION OF OUTDOOR ADVERTISING

Subchapter I. General Provisions


The rapid growth in the use of motor vehicles throughout this State and the concurrent extension of highways built or improved at public expense has lead to great changes in the extent and character of public travel. The investment of this State, municipalities and towns in good roads, parks, parkways, playgrounds and reservations, and the safety, convenience and welfare of the inhabitants have been affected.

The regulation and control of outdoor advertising signs, displays and devices of all kinds is provided for in order to promote the general welfare, especially in the particulars hereinafter recited.

The people of this State would suffer economically if the State failed to participate fully in the allocation and apportionment of federal-aid highway funds since a reduction in federal-aid highway funds would necessitate increased taxation to support and maintain the state road program and system. It is, consequently, the intention of this chapter, among other things, to provide a statutory basis for regulation of outdoor advertising consistent with the public policy relating to areas adjacent to federal-aid interstate and primary systems declared by the Congress of the United States in Title 23, United States Code.

42 Del. Laws, c. 182, § 1; 17 Del. C. 1953, § 1101; 53 Del. Laws, c. 87, § 1; 57 Del. Laws, c. 276.;

(a) The powers and authority granted in this chapter are in derogation of no other powers or authority granted by or created by or exercised under any other statute, or by a planning or zoning board or authority, or other public officer, but shall be construed as in addition to any such power or authority, which shall remain unaffected.

(b) As used in this chapter:

(1) "Commercial or industrial activities for purposes of unzoned commercial and industrial areas" means those activities generally recognized as commercial or industrial by zoning authorities in this State, except that none of the following activities shall be considered commercial or industrial:

a. Outdoor advertising structures;

b. Forestry, ranching, grazing and farming including, but not limited to, wayside fresh produce stands;

c. Transient or temporary activities;

d. Activities more than 600 feet from the nearest edge of the right-of-way along the interstate and federal-aid primary route;

e. Activities conducted in buildings principally used as a residence;

f. Railroad tracks and minor sidings;

g. Activities not visible from the main traveled way.

(2) "Controlled areas" means and includes any area inside the boundaries of this State which is adjacent to the right-of-way of a highway of the interstate or primary systems, except that areas beyond 660 feet of the right-of-way inside urban areas shall be excluded from this chapter.

(3) "Department" means the Department of Transportation.

(4) "Erect" means to construct, build, raise, assemble, place, affix, attach, create, paint, draw or in any way bring into being or establish, but it shall not include any of the foregoing activities when performed as an incident to the change of advertising message or customary maintenance of a sign or sign structure.

(5) "Gateway sign" means any sign, display, or device intended for its purpose to provide information to the travelling public advising motorists that they are entering the boundaries of a political subdivision or established nonincorporated area of the State. A gateway sign may include a slogan or related graphic, or both, subject to the approval of the Department.

(6) "Information center" means an area or site established and maintained at a rest area for the purpose of informing the public of places of interest within the State and providing such other information as the Department may consider desirable.

(7) "Interstate system" means that portion of the national system of interstate and defense highways located within this State, as officially designated, or as may hereafter be so designated, by the Department and approved by the Secretary of Transportation of the United States, pursuant to Title 23, United States Code, "Highways."

(8) The "laws of this State" shall include a provision of the Constitution or statutes of the State, or an ordinance, rule or regulation enacted or adopted by an agency or political subdivision of this State pursuant to the Constitution or statutes.

(9) "Maintain" means to allow to exist in accordance with state law.

(10) "Outdoor advertising" or "outdoor advertising signs, displays and devices" shall include any outdoor sign, display, device, picture, emblem, trademark, figure, painting, drawing, message, placard, poster, billboard, light or other thing which is designed, intended or used to advertise, to inform or to attract the attention of the traveling public, which is within 660 feet and visible or beyond 660 feet and visible and erected with the purpose of being read from the main traveled way of any state highway.

(11) "Primary system" means that portion of connected main highways of this State officially designated as such, or as may hereafter be designated as such, by the Department and approved by the Secretary of Transportation of the United States, pursuant to Title 23, United States Code, "Highways."

(12) "Rest area" means an area or site established and maintained within or adjacent to the right-of-way by or under public supervision or control, for the convenience of the traveling public.

(13) "Unzoned commercial or industrial areas" means those areas not zoned by any state, county or local ordinance or regulation on which there are located 1 or more permanent structures devoted to a business 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 areas of the commercial or industrial activities, not from the property lines of the activities, and shall be along or parallel to the edge of the pavement of the highway.

(14) "Urban areas" means and includes those areas designated as such by the Bureau of the Census and whose boundaries have been approved by the Secretary of the United States Department of Transportation.

(15) "Visible" means capable of being seen (whether or not legible) without visual aid by a person of normal visual acuity.

(16) "Zoned commercial or industrial areas" means those areas which are zoned for business, industry, commerce or trade pursuant to a state or local zoning ordinance or regulation, except that those areas beyond 660 feet outside urban areas shall not be recognized as commercial, industrial, unzoned commercial or unzoned industrial in the application of this chapter.

42 Del. Laws, c. 182, § 1; 17 Del. C. 1953, § 1102; 53 Del. Laws, c. 87, § 1; 57 Del. Laws, c. 276; 57 Del. Laws, c. 633, §§ 1, 2; 60 Del. Laws, c. 290, § 1; 61 Del. Laws, c. 262, §§ 1-6; 79 Del. Laws, c. 320, § 1.;

(a) The Department shall:

(1) Enforce this chapter; and

(2) Make, publish and enforce such regulations for the proper control and restriction of outdoor advertising signs, displays and devices as may be necessary or advisable to implement the policy and accomplish the purposes of this chapter.

(b) All employees of the Department, or any peace officer of this State, when so directed by the Department or its officers, may enter into and upon any land or building to make any examination or survey which the Department deems necessary to the effective administration of this chapter or to enforce this chapter.

(c) This chapter shall apply only to outdoor advertising signs, displays and devices situate outside the corporate limits of any incorporated city or town in this State and to those outdoor advertising signs, displays and devices situate in controlled areas within such corporate limits.

42 Del. Laws, c. 182, §§ 2, 14; 17 Del. C. 1953, § 1103; 53 Del. Laws, c. 87, § 1; 57 Del. Laws, c. 276; 57 Del. Laws, c. 633, § 7; 61 Del. Laws, c. 262, § 7.;

(a) Except as otherwise provided, no person, whether engaged in the business of outdoor advertising or not, shall erect, maintain or display any outdoor advertising sign, display or device, above or upon real property, without first obtaining a permit from the Department.

(b) A separate application for a permit shall be made for each separate outdoor advertising sign, display or device on a form furnished by the Department, which application shall contain such information as it may require. For the purpose of this subsection, each single sign panel or face shall be interpreted as constituting an outdoor advertising sign, display or device. Each application shall be accompanied by the written consent of the owner or tenant of the real property upon which such sign, display or device is to be erected or maintained. No new application shall be made for a permit to maintain any existing outdoor advertising sign, display or device or to renew a permit.

(c) The Department, in accordance with this chapter, shall issue or renew permits for a period of at least 1 year for the erection and maintenance of all types of outdoor advertising signs, displays and devices; provided, however, that all new permits issued shall expire at the next regular renewal period established by the Department. No permit shall be issued for the erection or construction of any sign which would be in violation of local law or ordinance at the time application is filed.

(d) The Department may establish and collect fees for the issuance of permits and renewals thereof. The amount of such charge shall be so fixed as to provide the Department with the funds deemed necessary by it to defray the costs of the administration of this chapter.

(e) When an application for a permit or for a renewal thereof is made by a nonresident or by a foreign corporation engaged in the business of outdoor advertising, the Department, at its discretion, as a condition to the issuance of such permit or renewal, may require such corporation to deposit with the Department a bond, in an amount and with surety to be approved by the Department, to secure such corporation's compliance with this chapter.

(f) All sign permits issued under this section shall terminate and become void if the sign structure for which the permit is issued is not under construction within 6 months and is not fully constructed in full compliance with the terms of this chapter within 1 year after its issuance. Under no circumstances shall there be any refund of a permit fee which has become void.

42 Del. Laws, c. 182, § 3; 17 Del. C. 1953, § 1104; 53 Del. Laws, c. 87, § 1; 57 Del. Laws, c. 276; 57 Del. Laws, c. 633, §§ 8, 9; 61 Del. Laws, c. 262, §§ 8-10.;

The Department shall require that each outdoor advertising sign, display or device shall bear an identifying tag or plate to be issued by the Department, and, upon erection shall bear the name of the party responsible for the erection and maintenance of the sign and the Department shall make provisions for the details thereof.

42 Del. Laws, c. 182, § 4; 17 Del. C. 1953, § 1105; 53 Del. Laws, c. 87, § 1; 57 Del. Laws, c. 276; 60 Del. Laws, c. 290, § 3; 61 Del. Laws, c. 262, § 11.;

All outdoor advertising signs, displays and devices shall be removed by the outdoor advertiser or other person erecting, owning, maintaining or displaying the same, or, in the event of that person's default, by the owner or tenant of the premises upon which any such sign, display or device is located, within 30 days from the date of the expiration or revocation of the permit for the same.

42 Del. Laws, c. 182, § 5; 17 Del. C. 1953, § 1106; 53 Del. Laws, c. 87, § 1; 57 Del. Laws, c. 276; 70 Del. Laws, c. 186, § 1.;

(a) No person shall willfully or maliciously displace, remove, destroy or injure a mileboard, milestone, danger sign or signal, guide sign or guide post or any inscription thereon, lawfully within the right-of-way of a public highway.

(b) No person shall in any manner paint, print, place, put or affix any outdoor advertising, outdoor advertising signs, displays or devices upon or to any rock, stone, tree, fence, stump, pole, milestone, danger signal, guide sign, guide post, building or other object lawfully within the right-of-way of any public highway.

42 Del. Laws, c. 182, § 7; 17 Del. C. 1953, § 1107; 53 Del. Laws, c. 87, § 1; 57 Del. Laws, c. 276; 61 Del. Laws, c. 262, § 12.;

(a) Subject to subsection (c) of this section, no outdoor advertising sign, display or device, except a directional, gateway, or warning sign, official sign or notice erected by or with the approval of the Department, shall be erected subsequent to July 14, 1969, within 25 feet of the right-of-way line of any public highway if visible from any portion of the same.

(b) Subject to subsection (c) and subsection (d) of this section, no outdoor advertising sign, display or device, except a gateway sign or historical marker erected with the approval of the Department, shall be erected or maintained:

(1) On the right-of-way of any public highways;

(2) Within 25 feet of any public playground, school or church if visible from any portion of the same;

(3) Upon the inside curves or at or near a railroad crossing or a highway intersection, if such would obstruct or interfere with the view of a train, locomotive, streetcar or other vehicle at or approaching such crossing or intersection or so as to obstruct the view of such intersection or crossing or of a turn or a sharp change in alignment or in any manner dangerous to the public;

(4) If such sign, display or device is obsolete or is not in good physical condition;

(5) If such sign, display or device is not securely affixed to a substantial structure or in any way endangers traffic on any public highway.

(c) Subsection (a) of this section shall not apply to outdoor advertising signs, displays or devices which advertise the sale or lease of, or activities conducted upon, the real property where they are located, or any outdoor advertising signs displayed on any school bus waiting shelter located and approved by the State Department of Education.

(d) Beautification/landscape planting sponsorship signs located within the right-of-way of any public highway shall be erected or placed as defined below and as such are exempt from this chapter and section:

(1) Signs under the above provision denoting the name of the person or persons or organization sponsoring/or donating, planting and/or maintaining beautification/landscape projects shall require an approved right-of-way use agreement issued by the Department of Transportation;

(2) Such signs shall not exceed 6 square feet and shall be constructed, painted and lettered according to standards for material and fabrication as required by the Department of Transportation.

42 Del. Laws, c. 182, §§ 6, 11; 17 Del. C. 1953, § 1108; 53 Del. Laws, c. 87, § 1; 55 Del. Laws, c. 407; 56 Del. Laws, c. 178; 56 Del. Laws, c. 351, § 1; 57 Del. Laws, c. 276; 57 Del. Laws, c. 633, §§ 10, 11; 61 Del. Laws, c. 262, §§ 13-15; 62 Del. Laws, c. 267, §§ 1, 2; 71 Del. Laws, c. 318, § 1; 79 Del. Laws, c. 320, § 1; 80 Del. Laws, c. 23, § 1.;

No outdoor advertising signs, displays or devices shall display copy which violates any federal or state law, or which is offensive to the moral standards of the community at the time the copy is offered for display, or which is false, misleading or deceptive.

42 Del. Laws, c. 182, § 10; 17 Del. C. 1953, § 1109; 53 Del. Laws, c. 87, § 1; 57 Del. Laws, c. 276.;

In order to provide criteria for the size, spacing and lighting of signs which effectively control the erection of outdoor advertising signs, displays and devices erected subsequent to July 14, 1969, other than those advertising the sale or lease of the property on which they are located, or activities conducted thereon, the Department establishes the following criteria for use in making, publishing and enforcing regulations:

(1) In zoned commercial and industrial areas, the Department shall certify to the administrator as notice of effective control that there have been established within such areas regulations which are effective and are enforced with respect to the size, lighting and spacing of outdoor advertising signs, displays and devices. In such areas, the size, lighting and spacing requirements set forth below shall not apply.

(2) In all other zoned and unzoned commercial and industrial areas, the criteria set forth below shall apply:

a. Construction of signs.

1. The maximum area for any 1 sign shall be 1,200 square feet with a maximum height of 25 feet and maximum length of 60 feet, inclusive of any border and trim but excluding ornamental base or apron, supports and other structural members.

2. The area of the sign shall be computed by the sign maker utilizing the most practical method which encompasses the entire sign and this data shall be submitted to the Division of Highways upon application for permit.

3. A sign structure may contain 1 or 2 signs per facing and 2 sign facings may be placed back to back or V-type at 1 location but in no event shall the total area of any facing exceed 1,200 square feet.

4. A sign which exceeds 600 square feet in area may not be on the same sign facing with any other sign.

5. All newly erected, rebuilt or replaced sign structures shall be constructed in accordance with the applicable wind pressure standards of the local building code, or, in the absence of such requirement, shall be constructed to withstand a minimum wind pressure of 25 pounds per square foot.

b. Spacing of signs.

1. 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, or obstruct or physically interfere with the driver's view of approaching, merging or intersecting traffic. Except for roof signs, wall signs and free standing signs against the wall of a building, no ground sign shall be placed within 35 feet of either highway right-of-way at an intersection where they converge, unless the base of such sign shall be at least 8 feet above ground level or road bed, whichever is higher.

2. Interstate highways and controlled access highways on the federal aid primary system.

A. No 2 structures shall be spaced less than 500 feet apart.

B. Outside of incorporated cities and towns, no structure may be located within 500 feet of an interchange, intersection at grade, rest area or information center (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).

3. Noncontrolled access federal aid primary highways.

A. Outside of incorporated cities and towns, no 2 structures shall be spaced less than 300 feet apart.

B. Within incorporated cities and towns, no 2 structures shall be spaced less than 100 feet apart.

4. The above spacing-between-structures provisions do not apply to structures separated by buildings or other obstructions in such a manner that only 1 sign facing located within the above spacing distances is visible from the highway at any 1 time.

5. Official and "on premise" signs, as defined in subsection (c) of § 131 of Title 23, United States Code, 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.

6. The minimum distance 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.

c. Lighting. — Signs may be illuminated, subject to the following restrictions.

1. Signs which contain, include, or are illuminated by any flashing, intermittent, or moving light or lights are prohibited, except those giving public service information such as time, date, temperature, weather, or traffic conditions, or as defined in paragraph (2)c.5. of this section.

2. Signs which are not effectively shielded to prevent beams or rays of light from being directed at any portion of the traveled ways of an interstate or federal-aid primary highway and which are of such intensity or brilliance as to cause glare or to impair the vision of a driver of a motor vehicle or which otherwise obscure or interfere with a driver's operation of a motor vehicle are prohibited.

3. A sign may not be illuminated so that it interferes with the effectiveness of, or obscures, an official traffic control device such as a sign or signal.

4. All lighting is subject to any other provisions of law relating to the lighting of signs presently applicable to all highways under the jurisdiction of the State.

5. Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraphs (2)c.1. through (2)c.4. of this section, signs commonly known as variable message signs may be changed at intervals by electronic or mechanical process or remote control, and are permitted within 660 feet of the edge of the right-of-way of any interstate or federal-aid primary highway so designated as of June 1, 1991, and of the National Highway System. These variable message signs are permitted, except as prohibited by local ordinance or zoning regulation or by the Delaware federal-state outdoor advertising agreement of May 1, 1968, and are not considered to be in violation of flashing, intermittent, or moving lights criteria provided that:

A. Each message remains fixed for a minimum of at least 10 seconds.

B. When the message is changed, it must be accomplished in 1 second or less, with all moving parts or illumination changing simultaneously and in unison.

C. A variable message sign along the same roadway and facing in the same direction of travel may not be placed, as measured along the centerline of the roadway, within 2,500 feet of another variable message sign, or within 500 feet of a static billboard sign regulated by this section, or within 1,000 feet of an interchange, interstate junction of merging or diverging traffic, or an at-grade intersection.

D. A variable message sign must contain a default design that will freeze the sign in 1 position if a malfunction occurs or, in the alternative, that will shut down.

E. A variable message sign may not contain or display any lights, effects, or messages that flash, move, appear to be animated or to move, scroll, or change in intensity during the fixed display period. A variable message sign must appropriately adjust display brightness as ambient light levels change.

F. A sign that attempts or appears to attempt to direct the movement of traffic or which contains wording, color, shapes, or likenesses of official traffic control devices is prohibited.

G. A sign may not be placed along designated Delaware byways.

d. The State and local political subdivisions shall have full authority under their own zoning laws to zone areas for commercial or industrial purposes and the action of the State and local political subdivisions in this regard will be accepted for the purposes of this chapter. At any time that a political subdivision adopts regulations which include the size, lighting and spacing of outdoor advertising, the State shall so certify to the administrator and control of outdoor advertising in commercial or industrial areas will transfer to paragraph (1) of this section.

17 Del. C. 1953, § 1110; 57 Del. Laws, c. 276; 57 Del. Laws, c. 633, §§ 3-6; 60 Del. Laws, c. 290, § 2; 61 Del. Laws, c. 262, § 16; 76 Del. Laws, c. 144, § 1; 77 Del. Laws, c. 367, § 1.;

(a) Any outdoor advertising sign, display or device which is erected or maintained in violation of this chapter or any regulations lawfully adopted pursuant to this chapter is declared to be a public nuisance and may be forthwith removed, obliterated or abated by the Department, its employees or any peace officer of this State, when such violation is not corrected after 30 days' written notice of the violation to the owner of the sign, display or device or to the owner, lessee or occupant of the land upon which the sign, display or device is located. All costs incurred by the Department in abating a nuisance pursuant to this section shall be the responsibility of the owner of the sign, display or device and the Department shall have an action at law to recover such costs, as well as the expenses of suit.

When any sign is damaged, or falls into disrepair to the extent that obvious repairs are needed, the owner shall be notified in writing by the Department to make all necessary repairs. If the sign is not repaired, rebuilt or removed within 30 days of the notification, the applicable sign permit shall lapse and become null and void.

(b) Any person, business or company which knowingly paints, builds and erects or maintains an outdoor advertising sign without a permit shall be in violation of the chapter.

(c)(1) Any outdoor advertising sign, display or device which is erected or maintained in violation of § 1108(b)(1) of this title shall be subject to immediate removal and the other enforcement provisions of § 525 of this title, without regard to the clear zone distance limitations of that section.

(2) Paragraph (c)(1) of this section shall not apply during the 30-day period immediately preceding and the 30-day period after an election administered pursuant to Title 15, in those election districts affected by such election or elections.

42 Del. Laws, c. 182, § 13; 17 Del. C. 1953, § 1111; 53 Del. Laws, c. 87, § 1; 57 Del. Laws, c. 276; 57 Del. Laws, c. 633, § 12; 60 Del. Laws, c. 290, §§ 4, 5; 75 Del. Laws, c. 98, § 124.;

The Department or any taxpayer may maintain an action for an injunction to restrain any violation or threatened violation of this chapter or of any regulation lawfully adopted pursuant thereto.

42 Del. Laws, c. 182, § 13; 17 Del. C. 1953, § 1112; 53 Del. Laws, c. 87, § 1; 57 Del. Laws, c. 276.;

Whoever violates this chapter or any regulation lawfully adopted pursuant to this chapter shall be fined not less than $10 nor more than $50.

Each day that a violation is allowed to continue after 30 days' written notice of its existence shall constitute a separate offense.

42 Del. Laws, c. 182, § 13; 17 Del. C. 1953, § 1113; 53 Del. Laws, c. 87, § 1; 57 Del. Laws, c. 276.;

The classes of signs described below are excepted from all provisions of this subchapter other than the provisions of § 1103(a)(2) insofar as those provisions may be implemented by regulations controlling and restricting outdoor advertising signs, displays and devices in controlled areas:

(1) Outdoor advertising signs, displays and devices 32 square feet or less erected or maintained upon real property and placed on the premises to identify a business conducted thereon.

(2) Outdoor advertising signs, displays and devices (containing 12 square feet or less in areas zoned residential or 32 square feet or less in areas zoned otherwise) upon real property stating that the property, or a part thereof, is for sale or for rent.

(3) A notice or advertisement required by law in any legal proceeding or put upon the property by public authority.

(4) A danger or precautionary sign containing 2 square feet or less relating to the premises or a sign warning of the condition of or danger of travel on a highway.

(5) Any notice or sign of any railroad or other transportation or transmission or communication company necessary for the direction or information or safety of the public.

(6) Any sign containing 6 square feet or less and directing travelers to any town, village, city, historical site or attractions, provided the same is maintained at public expense.

(7) Nonofficial signs displayed on transit shelters under contracts approved by the Department.

42 Del. Laws, c. 182, § 8; 17 Del. C. 1953, § 1114; 53 Del. Laws, c. 87, § 1; 57 Del. Laws, c. 276; 60 Del. Laws, c. 290, § 6; 61 Del. Laws, c. 262, §§ 17, 18; 63 Del. Laws, c. 178, §§ 1, 2; 71 Del. Laws, c. 318, §§ 2, 3.;

If any exception, section, part, phrase, or provision of this chapter or the application thereof be held invalid by any court of competent jurisdiction, such judgment shall be confined in its operation to the exception, section, part, phrase, provision, or application directly involved in the controversy in which such judgment shall have been rendered, and shall not affect or impair the remainder of this chapter or the application thereof.

71 Del. Laws, c. 318, § 4.;