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Sign Codes Updated in Orlando and Fairfax County, VA

Orlando now allows EMCs, but Virginia Supreme Court rules 2020-21 virtual meetings may no longer be valid.

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The International Sign Association (ISA; Alexandria, VA) has recently reported on two sign code updates, one in Orlando, FL and the other in Fairfax County, VA, but with potential nationwide implications.

Per ISA’s announcement, in 2016, a local sign company brought the city of Orlando’s restrictive sign code to the attention of ISA and the Southern States Sign Association’s (SSSA). The city planning office was familiar with ISA’s sign code work, having attended several of ISA’s “Planning for Sign Code Success” workshops as well as turning to ISA for legal guidance when the Reed v. Town of Gilbert U.S. Supreme Court decision came out in 2015.

Over the next seven years and backed by research from the Sign Research Foundation (SRF) showing that EMCs are safe and help businesses succeed, ISA and SSSA worked with Orlando officials to improve the city’s sign code. Area sign companies also provided a local perspective when meeting with Orlando city and county officials.

On March 20, 2023 the Orlando city council unanimously passed their new sign code allowing EMCs.

However, ISA has also announced that a recent decision by the Supreme Court of Virginia directly impacts Virginia sign companies and has the potential for a broader impact across the US.

Also per the association’s announcement, for sign companies that work in Virginia: Any public action — variance, zoning changes or sign code changes — voted on virtually between March 17, 2020 and March 31, 2021 in Fairfax County — may no longer be valid. The court ruled on March 23, 2023 that virtual meetings in Fairfax County in 2020-21 did not fulfill the obligation for open meetings and rendered any action taken on normal, non-emergency business during an online public meeting as invalid. Fairfax County immediately reverted to its last passed zoning ordinance, rendered in 1978 and updated throughout the years.

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ISA recommends that every company operating in Virginia speak to county/municipal zoning officials in advance of any sign project to verify the status of the jurisdiction’s sign ordinance. ISA has not yet heard of any moratoriums outside of Virginia related to this court ruling.

For more information, visit signs.org.

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