2019 - 2020 LEGISLATURE
September 5, 2019 - Introduced by Representatives Stuck and Billings. Referred
to Committee on Transportation.
1An Act to repeal
59.70 (22), 60.23 (29), 84.30 (4) (bm), 84.30 (5) (br) and 84.305; 2to renumber and amend
84.30 (10m) and 84.30 (14);
84.30 (1), 3
84.30 (2) (a), 84.30 (2) (j), 84.30 (3) (intro.), 84.30 (3) (c) 2., 84.30 (3) (e), 84.30 4
(3) (h), 84.30 (4) (intro.), 84.30 (4) (b) 1., 84.30 (4) (b) 2., 84.30 (4) (c) 1., 84.30 (4) 5
(c) 2., 84.30 (4) (c) 3., 84.30 (5) (bm), 84.30 (10) (a), 227.43 (1) (bg) and 289.33 6
(3) (d); to repeal and recreate
84.30 (10m) (title); and to create
20.395 (9) 7
(aq), 20.932, 41.17 (4) (dm), 66.0430, 84.30 (2) (dg), 84.30 (2) (im), 84.30 (2) (jm), 8
84.30 (3) (gm), 84.30 (4m), 84.30 (9g), 84.30 (9r), 84.30 (10m) (b), 84.30 (10s) and 9
84.30 (14) (c) of the statutes;
relating to: outdoor advertising signs, granting
10rule-making authority, and making an appropriation.
Analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau
This bill alters numerous provisions relating to the regulation of outdoor
advertising signs along highways.
The federal Highway Beautification Act requires states to restrict advertising
along interstate and federal-aid primary (primary) highways, and current state law
incorporates these requirements. Current law prohibits, with certain exceptions,
the erection or maintenance of outdoor advertising signs within 660 feet of, or beyond
660 feet but visible (and erected for the purpose of being visible) from, the
main-traveled way of an interstate or primary highway. The exceptions to this
prohibition include, with some restrictions:
1. Directional and other official signs, including signs relating to natural
wonders and scenic and historical attractions.
2. Landmark signs.
3. Signs advertising the sale or lease of property on which the signs are located.
4. On-premises signs, which are signs advertising activities conducted on the
property where the signs are located.
5. Signs located beyond 660 feet of the highway in urban areas.
6. Signs located within 660 feet of the highway in areas zoned for business,
industrial, or commercial activities, or in unzoned areas used for commercial or
industrial activities, that were in existence on March 18, 1972.
7. Signs located within 660 feet of the highway in areas zoned for business,
industrial, or commercial activities, or in unzoned areas used for commercial or
industrial activities, that were erected after March 18, 1972. These signs must
comply with certain size, lighting, and spacing requirements. If, however, a county
or local zoning authority has made a determination of customary use regarding size,
lighting, and spacing, that determination may be accepted in lieu of the statutory
8. Certain signs erected on farm buildings.
The bill freezes, as of the effective date of the bill, the application of the
exception to off-premises business area signs, thereby prohibiting the erection of
signs under that exception after the bill's effective date. Signs erected under this
exception prior to the bill's effective date may continue to be maintained and to vary
their advertising and informative displays.
The bill extends the provisions governing outdoor advertising signs along
interstate and primary highways to all state trunk highways and scenic byways.
Under the bill, a determination of customary use by a county or local zoning
authority does not affect the applicability of statutory size, lighting, or spacing
Under current law, the Department of Transportation generally may remove
signs that do not conform to applicable requirements but, for each sign removed,
must pay just compensation to the owner of the sign and to the owner of the land on
which the sign is located. For on-property signs, if the on-property sign was lawful
when it was erected but later does not comply with the applicable requirements for
on-property signs, DOT must declare the sign to be nonconforming but may not
remove the sign unless additional criteria are met. These signs are not subject to
removal for changing the advertising message on the sign or performing customary
maintenance on the sign, but are subject to removal, without compensation, if the
sign is enlarged, replaced, or relocated or if additional signs are erected. For signs
lawfully erected after March 18, 1972, which subsequently become nonconforming,
DOT must require removal of the signs, with compensation, by the end of the fifth
year after they become nonconforming, but only if there are sufficient funds available
to DOT to pay just compensation for the sign removal.
Additionally, under current law as enacted in 2017 Wisconsin Act 320
area signs, directional signs, and signs outside the adjacent area (together referred
to as off-property signs) that were lawfully erected but that no longer conform to
applicable requirements must be declared nonconforming but are not subject to
removal unless additional criteria are met. These nonconforming off-property signs
are not subject to removal for changing the advertising message on the sign or
performing customary maintenance on the sign. These signs must remain
substantially the same as they were on the date they became nonconforming in order
to be exempt from removal by DOT. “Substantially the same" is defined to mean that,
since the sign became nonconforming, no “substantial change" to the sign has been
made. “Substantial change" to a sign is defined to mean any of the following:
increasing the number of upright supports; changing the physical location;
increasing the square footage or area of the sign face; adding changeable message
capability; or adding illumination to a sign that was previously not illuminated. In
general, a nonconforming off-property sign is subject to removal, without
compensation, if a substantial change is made to the sign and notice is provided to
the sign owner.
The bill repeals the provisions of 2017 Wisconsin Act 320
Also under the bill, “customary maintenance" is defined to mean any of the
following and similar activities when performed to maintain a sign in substantially
the same form as when the sign became nonconforming: preparing surfaces for
painting; repairing or replacing fasteners such as nails, screws, or bolts; replacing
lighting components and associated fixtures; or fastening broken pieces of a sign
back together with glue or fasteners. Customary maintenance specifically does not
include using different materials for any replacement or adding any structural
elements such as posts, poles, braces or guy wires, crossbeams, or sign faces. Also
under this bill, the owner of a nonconforming on-property sign must maintain a
record of all work performed on the sign, including a photograph of each item of work
performed, and provide a report to DOT of the work performed.
Under current law, off-premises business area signs may not contain flashing,
intermittent, or moving lights, except:
1. Those signs giving public service information.
2. Certain signs that contain multiple or variable messages, including
messages on louvers that are rotated and messages formed solely by use of lights or
other electronic or digital displays.
Under the bill, the exception from the prohibition of flashing, intermittent, or
moving lights for certain signs that contain multiple or variable messages is
Under the bill, DOT must promulgate rules establishing size, height, setback,
brightness, and hours of operation standards for signs that are illuminated. Signs
may be illuminated only if the owner of the sign has received a permit from DOT,
which is issued if the sign complies with DOT illumination rules.
The bill requires DOT to conduct biennial surveys of signs, including certain
measurements and assessments of each sign.
Under the bill, DOT must maintain a database of information related to signs.
The database must include the information from DOT sign surveys and certain
additional information for each sign.
Also under the bill, an owner of a sign must provide any information required
to be included in the database to DOT and must update the information whenever
the information in the database is no longer accurate.
Under current law, no person may erect or maintain an outdoor advertising sign
visible from the main-traveled way of an interstate or federal-aid highway unless
he or she possesses a license issued by DOT, the sign complies with applicable
regulations, and, if DOT has promulgated a rule requiring payment of an annual
permit fee for the sign, the person has paid the annual permit fee.
Under the bill, DOT must establish a license fee and an annual permit fee. DOT
is required to set the fees so as to recover its approximate costs of regulating outdoor
Under current law, DOT is responsible for maintenance of the highway
right-of-way on highways that, for maintenance purposes, are under its
jurisdiction, which are generally state trunk highways (including interstate
highways) but do not include connecting highways. DOT must provide for the care
and protection of trees and other roadside vegetation. DOT must also cut, trim, or
remove, or allow others to cut, trim, or remove, trees and other vegetation in order
to provide safety to highway users. Current law generally prohibits a person from
cutting, trimming, removing, or planting a tree or other vegetation within the
right-of-way of a state trunk highway without DOT's consent.
Currently, DOT administers a permit system for the maintenance and removal
by sign owners of vegetation obstructing the view of signs along state trunk
highways, including interstate highways. DOT is required to issue permits to sign
owners for the trimming or removal of vegetation in the highway right-of-way if,
within a distance of 500 continuous feet along the highway, the vegetation obstructs
motorists' view of the face of a sign. A permit authorizes the sign owner, or a
third-party contractor employed by the sign owner, to trim or remove obstructing
vegetation to the extent necessary to eliminate the obstruction and restore an
unobstructed view of the sign for the 500 continuous feet along the highway. Each
permit must require a sign owner that removes certain planted vegetation to plant
comparable replacement vegetation or compensate DOT for the removed vegetation.
The bill eliminates the permit system for the maintenance and removal by sign
owners of vegetation obstructing the view of signs along state trunk highways.
Under current law, towns and counties are authorized to regulate the
maintenance and construction of billboards and other similar structures on premises
abutting on certain highways in the town or county so as to promote the safety of
public travel on the highways.
Under the bill, a city, village, town, or county may enact an ordinance that
regulates the construction and maintenance of billboards and other similar
structures on premises abutting on highways that are maintained by the city, village,
town, or county. If enacted, such an ordinance must promote aesthetic values and
public safety on the highways.
The bill prohibits any office, department, or independent agency in the
executive branch, the legislature, or the courts from purchasing, leasing, accepting,
or using billboard space on nonconforming signs.
Under current law, the Department of Tourism may award joint effort
marketing funds to nonprofit organizations, including American Indian tribes or
bands, for projects designed to promote attractions and facilities in this state. While
an applicant for joint effort marketing funds must specify the advertising media to
be used in a project funded by the funds, there is no restriction on the kinds of media
that may be used. The bill prohibits the use of joint effort marketing funds for
advertising on nonconforming signs.
For further information see the state and local fiscal estimate, which will be
printed as an appendix to this bill.
The people of the state of Wisconsin, represented in senate and assembly, do
enact as follows:
20.395 (9) (aq) of the statutes is created to read:
(aq) Outdoor advertising regulation.
All moneys received under s. 3
84.30 (10) (a) and (10m) (a) for the regulation of outdoor advertising along highways.
20.932 of the statutes is created to read:
520.932 Prohibition on use of certain signs.
A state agency may not 6
purchase, lease, accept, or use space on a sign that does not conform to the 7
requirements under s. 84.30. If a state agency owns space on a sign that does not 8
conform to the requirements under s. 84.30 on the effective date of this section .... 9
[LRB inserts date], the state agency shall sell the space as soon as practically 10
possible. If a state agency leases space on a sign that does not conform to the 11
requirements under s. 84.30 on the effective date of this section .... [LRB inserts 12
date], the state agency may not renew the lease.
41.17 (4) (dm) of the statutes is created to read:
(dm) No funds may be used for advertising on a sign that does not 2
conform to the requirements under s. 84.30.