County will start removing illegal signs

In response to complaints from islanders and business owners about illegally placed signs, San Juan County has been tagging non-compliant signs with a courtesy notice stating that they must be removed within a specified period of time.

San Juan County Code allows county personnel to remove illegal signs, but the county has attempted to obtain voluntary compliance by providing the notices as a courtesy, according to the county's public information office.

In many instances, however, the tags were simply peeled off and the signs left in place.

Now, San Juan County is giving notice that as of July 6, it will exercise its existing authority and that unauthorized "sandwich board" and other illegally placed signs will be subject to immediate removal.

The largest number of complaints concerning illegal signs has come from Orcas Island, where county Code Enforcement Officer Allen Shayo tagged 22 signs on May 13 alone. Most of the signs he tagged were located in Eastsound.

Sign regulations in Eastsound prohibit all "off-premises outdoor advertising signs." This prohibition covers all signs, applying without exception to both commercial and non-profit entities, and regardless of whether the sign promotes a one-time, seasonal or continuous event.

Outside of Eastsound, the San Juan County Code requires that business identification and advertising signs be mounted or painted on a building unless the business cannot be seen from a public road. Off-premises outdoor commercial signs are not permitted. The only exception to this prohibition is for a special event sign which can be displayed just once a year for a maximum of 30 days.

Signs offering directions can only refer to geographical locations, and can include nothing other than the location name, the mileage and a directional arrow. Prior approval from the county engineer is required before directional signs can be erected.

On July 6, county personnel will begin removing illegally placed signs without prior notice. The signs will be held for a period of 10 days for retrieval by the owners and will be then disposed of if not retrieved.

Sign owners can pick up their signs at the Annex by the sheriff’s storage building in Friday Harbor, at the Public Works shop at 1395 Mount Baker Road on Orcas Island, or the Cormorant Building on Lopez Island.

Questions about the sign regulations? Call the county code enforcement office at (360) 370-7580. Complaints concerning illegally placed signs can be filed by submitting a Request for Code Enforcement which can be obtained on the county Web site at

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