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Section 2: Continuance of Nonconforming Signs

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Overview

In order for a nonconforming sign structure to be maintained and continued the sign structure must:

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  • have existed at the time the conditions changed to make the sign nonconforming;
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  • have been lawful on the date it became subject to control by TxDOT; and
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  • remain substantially the same as it was on the date it became subject to TxDOT 's control.

The permit holder's sign:

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  • may not be relocated even if the sign is sold, leased, or otherwise transferred, without affecting its status, unless the relocation is a result of a right of way acquisition requiring relocation to a conforming area;
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  • may not be destroyed, abandoned, or discontinued;
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  • may not be removed or re-erected for any reason, including repair; and
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  • may not be substantially changed.
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Routine Maintenance

The following are considered to be routine, normal, or reasonable maintenance activities that do not require an amended permit:

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  • replacement of nuts and bolts; nailing, riveting or welding; cleaning and painting; and manipulation to level or plumb the sign structure;
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  • replacement of minor parts, as long as the basic design or structure of the sign is not altered and materials of the same type are used;
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  • changing the advertising message, including changing the sign face, as long as similar materials are used to replace the sign face;
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  • upgrading existing lighting for an energy efficient lighting system.
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Customary Maintenance

The following are considered to be customary maintenance activities that may be made, but require an amended permit before the initiation of such an activity:

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  • replacement of poles, as long as no more than one-half of the poles are replaced in any 12-month period and the poles are replaced with the same type of materials as the original poles; and
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  • adding a catwalk to the sign structure.
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Substantial Change

Substantial changes that require an amended permit application before the initiation of such activity are:

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  • adding lights to an un-illuminated sign or adding more intense lighting to an illuminated sign whether or not the lights are attached to the sign structure;
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  • changing the size of the sign beyond what is allowed (see Sign Standards - Size );
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  • changing the number of poles in the sign structure;
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  • changing the materials used in the construction of the sign, such as replacing wooden materials with metal materials;
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  • adding faces or changing the sign configuration, such as changing from a "V" configuration to a stacked configuration, or from a "V" configuration to a back-to-back configuration;
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  • increasing the height of the sign from the height designated on the original permit;
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  • moving the sign structure or sign face in any way unless the movement is made in accordance with TxDOT 's relocation provisions, as a result of a transportation project;
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  • replacing more than one-half of the poles in a multiple pole sign structure in any 12-month period; or
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  • making repairs that exceed 60% of the cost to erect a new sign of the same type at the same location.

A new permit will not be issued for a nonconforming sign.

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Damage

In the event a sign is partially destroyed by natural forces, including wind, tornadoes, hurricanes, or other occurrences outside the control of the permit holder, TxDOT will determine whether the sign can be repaired without a new permit.

TxDOT may require the permit holder to submit an estimate of the proposed work, including an itemized list of materials to be used and the manner in which the work will be done. TxDOT may allow the sign to be repaired without issuing a new permit if TxDOT determines that the repairs would constitute normal or reasonable repair and maintenance, if the damage to the sign is not substantial.

TxDOT will cancel the existing permit if it determines the damage to the sign is substantial and an amended permit is not obtained by the sign owner within one year after the date that the department first became aware of the damage.

A sign that is totally or partially destroyed by vandalism or a motor vehicle accident may be rebuilt as described on the most recently approved permit application.

If a sign is partially destroyed by a natural force outside the control of the sign owner in an area that receives a state or federal disaster declaration and the sign owner has documentation to show that the sign damage is not considered substantial the sign may be repaired without a prior determination by the department if the sign is repaired within 180 days after the date of the event and if within 60 days after the date of completion of the repairs, the owner submits to the department:

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  • photos of the partially destroyed sign and the repaired sign;
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  • a notarized affidavit executed by the sign owner containing the permit number of the sign; a statement that the sign was damaged by the natural force; a statement that the cost to repair the sign was less than 60 percent of the cost of a new sign with the same basic construction; and a statement that the sign was repaired in the same configuration and with like materials according to the most recent approved permit.

After the permit is canceled, the remaining sign structure must be dismantled and removed without cost to TxDOT , unless a new permit for the location can be issued. TxDOT will not issue a new permit to repair or rebuild the sign if the sign location is nonconforming.

If a decision to cancel a permit is appealed, the sign may not be repaired during the appeal process.

The damage will be considered substantial if:

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  • the cost to repair the sign would exceed 60% of the cost to replace it with a sign of the same basic construction at the same location; or
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  • the repairs would not constitute normal or reasonable repair and maintenance, as described above.
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Abandonment

TxDOT may consider a sign abandoned and cancel the permit or refuse to renew the permit if:

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  • a sign structure is blank or without legible advertising or copy for a period of 365 consecutive days; or
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  • the sign has fallen into disrepair or become overgrown by trees or other vegetation.

Small temporary signs such as garage sale signs or campaign signs attached to the structure do not constitute legible advertising matter.

The payment of property taxes or retention of the sign as a balance sheet asset will not be considered in determining whether the sign permit should be canceled.

An abandoned sign in a nonconforming sign location may not be re-permitted. If the location of the abandoned sign is conforming, a new permit may be issued to anyone who submits an application meeting requirements.

The department may initiate the cancellation process if the department has evidence that supports the fact that the sign face has been blank or has been without legible advertisement or copy for 365 days, such as photographs showing that on at least four dates throughout the 365-day period the sign was in the same condition or was degrading. Evidence is not required for each of the 365 days.

Before initiating the cancellation process the department will provide notice to the sign owner and land owner as identified on the permit application of the abandonment determination and allow the sign owner 60 days to correct the issue.

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Removal

Actions constituting removal include, but are not limited to:

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  • Removal of the structure, regardless of whether it was removed by someone other than the permit holder. This includes removal of the structure for repairs. Repairs must be conducted at the sign site. The face may be temporarily removed for repainting.
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  • Removal of the structure when it is replaced with a different structure.
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  • Removal of the structure when it is moved to another location.
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