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Sign Regulations

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Sign Regulations 

The City recognizes that signs are vital to businesses within the community. Sign regulations serve to preserve Tumwater’s natural beauty as well as eliminate distracting, confusing, or excessive signs that may pose a hazard to motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. You must obtain a sign permit issued by the City to erect, alter or relocate a sign. If it’s a sign powered by electricity, you’ll need a state electrical permit as well.

The City conditionally exempts certain types of signs from obtaining a sign permit, however, the sign area for these types of signs is still calculated into the overall area measurement that is allowed for regulated signs.  Conditionally exempt signs still requires approval from the City after review of a Sign Conditional Exemption Application and payment of a nominal fee.  

One of the most common signs that the City allows under its conditionally exemption provisions are A-Board or sandwich board signs.  These type of signs qualify for conditional exemptions status if they meet the following standards:

  1. The sign must be located on the premises for which it is advertising.  
  2. The sign must be placed on the ground and cannot be elevated in any way.
  3. The sign shall be no more than sixteen square feet total, including all faces of the sign, provided that no one sign face is larger than fifty percent of the total allowable sign area. The sign shall not exceed four feet in height.
  4. The sign shall not be illuminated nor have any flags, pennants or balloons attached to it.
  5. Permanent lettering for the business name and/or logo are required on sandwich boards.
  6. The sign shall be displayed during operating hours of the business only.
  7. Signs shall be constructed out of materials able to withstand typical Northwest weather. Such materials may be metal, finished wood, chalkboard, whiteboard or plastic. Signs and copy shall be of professional quality. Owners of sandwich board signs shall be required to keep their signs legible, intact, clean, graffiti free and in good repair.
  8. Owners of such signs shall assume liability for damage or injury resulting from their use and must sign a form provided by the city holding the city harmless and indemnifying the city for such resulting loss and/or injury. Alternately, the applicant may provide a signed document in substantially the same form, provided such document is satisfactory to the city attorney.
  9. No more than one such sign may be displayed per business. For developments with two or more businesses on a single property, no more than two such signs may be displayed per single property.


Please Note:  No sign advertising a business, product or service may be placed on any portion of the public right-of-way, including public sidewalks.


For more information on conditionally exempt signs see TMC 18.44.075 - Conditional Exemptions.

To apply for a sign permit

Sign Conditional Exemption Application pdf-icon-sm 

Sign Permit Application pdf-icon-sm

Sign Permit Submittal Checklist pdf-icon-sm 

Please include the following with your application (see submittal checklist for details):

  • Location of the sign structure
  • Name and address of the sign owner / sign erector
  • Drawings or photographs showing the design and location of the sign
  • Any other information deemed necessary to ensure compliance to city ordinances
  • Proof of a verifiable contractor registration
  • Current Tumwater city business license
  • Lender information
  • Two copies of your plans
  • Payment of the plan review fee

For free-standing pylon signs, you must provide stamped, signed engineering calculations; footing/foundation drawings; details of the connection of the pylon to the foundation; elevation drawings with dimensions of all faces of the sign; and height of top of sign from ground level.

For monument signs, you’ll need to provide footing/foundation drawings, elevation drawings with dimensions of all faces of the sign, and the height of the top of the sign from ground level.

For wall-mounted signs, you must provide a drawing of the entire wall of the building the sign is mounted on with the sign superimposed on the wall, dimensioned; detail of the wall construction where the sign is to be mounted; elevation drawings with dimensions of the sign; detail of the mounting system/hardware used to connect the sign to the wall; the total square-footage of the public façade of the building.

Learn more...

Size Regulations for Signs

Exempt Signs

Prohibited Signs


Call the Community Development Department at (360) 754-4180 or