Winston-Salem Sign Amortization

Purpose of the Sign Code

Signs are a necessary and beneficial use of property that contributes to our community's economic vitality and appearance. Reasonable sign regulations are necessary to protect public property and community aesthetics. The intent of this Ordinance is to regulate the type, number, physical dimensions, erection, placement and maintenance of signs in Winston-Salem and Forsyth County. The purpose is to:

  • Promote the public health, safety, and welfare of residents and visitors
  • Provide an environment which fosters growth and development of business
  • Protect commercial districts from visual clutter
  • Protect property values
  • Eliminate distractions which are hazardous to motorists and pedestrians
  • Protect and enhance the natural beauty, cultural attributes, distinctive character, and visual environment of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County
  • Protect the public's ability to identify establishments and premises in an orderly, readable, and safe manner
  • Protect the public's investment in public buildings, streets, roads, highways, and open spaces
  • Balance the individual rights of property owners to communicate their message with the public's right to be free of unreasonable distractions and aesthetic intrusions

What is the Amortization?

On July 1, 2007, the current sign code for the City of Winston-Salem came in effect. On-premise freestanding signs made nonconforming by the provisions of this Ordinance shall be removed or brought into compliance within 15 years from July 1, 2007 (July 1, 2022). Non-conforming signs consist of signs that exceed the current code allowances for sign height and sign area. All new ground signs that have been permitted since July 1, 2007 have been required to comply with this code. Replacement of the removable face of a cabinet-type sign has not been required to conform with the standards of this Ordinance and will continue to be allowed prior to July 1, 2022. It is strongly advised, that as we approach the amortization date of July 1, 2022, businesses consider bringing their signs into compliance instead of changing the removable faces

Research & Field Work

Inspections Division staff will be researching and inspecting all sites in the city limits to identify sites with non-conforming signs. Notification letters will be mailed to the legal owner of all sites containing a non-conforming sign. As site analysis becomes available, the Inspections Division will provide a database for public use that will identify all sites that have been researched.

Deadline & Consequences

The goal is for total compliance, City-wide by July 1, 2022. Any sites with a non-conforming sign as of July 1, 2022, will be considered in violation of the Unified Development Ordinance. Notice of Violation Letters will be mailed to the legal agent of the property, notifying them of the violation(s). Failure to correct the violation(s) within five days or by the end of the period of extension, will result in an assessed civil penalty of $100 for each day the violation continues. In addition, the City of Winston-Salem may also seek injunctive relief to remedy the violation(s). As soon as the sign has been brought into compliance with the Winston-Salem sign code, the Inspections Division should be contacted so a prompt inspection can be made and further penalties, if any, can be stopped.