Commercial and Political Signs - Frequently Asked Questions
- What kinds of signs are prohibited in the state rights-of-way?
- Are any kinds of signs allowed in the state rights-of-way?
- Who do I call to complain about a sign in the state rights-of-way?
- Why is the county not doing something about signs on the state rights-of-way?
- Are political signs at polling places allowed?
- Are there restrictions for signs on private property?
- What is the Fairfax County Sign Task Force and what did they do?
Va. Code Ann. § 33.1-373 (2005) provides that
[a]ny person who in any manner (i) paints, prints, places, puts or affixes any advertisement upon or to any rock, stone, tree, fence, stump, pole, mile-board, milestone, danger-sign, guide-sign, guidepost, highway sign, historical marker, building or other object lawfully within the limits of any highway or (ii) erects, paints, prints, places, puts, or affixes any advertisement within the limits of any highway shall be assessed a civil penalty of $100.
An advertisement is defined in Va. Code Ann. § 33.1-351 as
any writing, printing, picture, painting, display, emblem, drawing, sign, or similar device which is posted or displayed outdoors on real property and is intended to invite or to draw the attention or to solicit the patronage or support of the public to any goods, merchandise, real or personal property, business, services, entertainment, or amusement manufactured, produced, bought, sold, conducted, furnished, or dealt in by any person; the term shall also include any part of an advertisement recognizable as such.
There are limited exceptions to the prohibitions in Va. Code Ann.
§ 33.1-373. These exceptions are set forth in Va. Code Ann. § 33.1-355
(2005), and they include, among other things, farm produce sale signs,
official notices or advertisements, signs erected by the Commonwealth
Transportation Commissioner, historical markers erected by public
authorities, and signs erected by the Red Cross relating to emergency
Call the Virginia Department of
Transportation at 703-383-8368, TTY 711. The Commonwealth
Transportation Commissioner is responsible for enforcing the
provisions of Va. Code Ann. § 33.1-373, which prohibits the placing
of advertisements in the state rights-of-way.
4. Why is the county not doing something about signs in the state rights-of-way?
Only the Commonwealth Transportation Commissioner or his agent has the
authority to enforce the state code as it pertains to signs in the state
Fairfax County does not have jurisdiction over the state rights-of-way and is not currently authorized under state law to remove signs within the state rights-of-way.
Yes. During the times the polls are open and ballots are being counted,
political signs may be placed outside official polling places, but
they are not permitted within 40 feet of any entrance of any polling
place. Va. Code Ann. § 24.2-604 (Supp. 2007).
Yes. Article 12 of the Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance sets forth
restrictions on the size, location, and, in certain instances, the
length of time signs can be posted. For specific information, please
contact the Department of Code Compliance at
703-324-1300, TTY 711. Ask for the planner-of-the-day. More
information is also available online at
The Fairfax County Task Force was appointed by the Fairfax County Board
of Supervisors in August 2000 to examine current practices and
enforcement procedures regarding illegal signs within and along the state
rights-of-way in the County, investigate other jurisdictions’ best
practice methods in dealing with illegal signs, and return with
recommendations or suggestions the Task Force may have regarding
amendments to the Code of Virginia or the Fairfax County Zoning
The Task Force completed its study and presented its Final Report to the Board of Supervisors on September 22, 2002. Subsequently, as recommended in the Final Report, the General Assembly amended Va. Code Ann. § 33.1-375.1 to permit the Commonwealth Transportation Commissioner to enter into an agreement with the Board of Supervisors of Fairfax County authorizing the County to act as the Commissioner’s agent for the enforcement of Va. Code Ann. § 33.1-373, subject to the restrictions set forth in Va. Code Ann. § 33.1-375.1(C). These restrictions allow campaigns signs and special events signs to remain in place for three days after an election or special event. Furthermore, all other signs and advertising would be permitted to remain in place for three days. At this time, the Commissioner has not entered into such an agreement with the County.