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(1) A community, county, or sovereign nation may erect welcome to signs within its territorial jurisdiction or zoning jurisdiction, as long as the community, county, or sovereign nation exercises some form of governmental authority over the area upon which the sign is located (e.g., city limits). Community welcome to signs must comply with sign standards found in 75-15-113, MCA, and ARM 18.6.231, unless otherwise specified in this rule. Welcome to signs must not be erected by other types of governmental entities including states or tourist area regions.

(2) Qualifying communities, counties, or sovereign nations may develop their own welcome to sign designs, and may also use their own pictographs and a brief jurisdiction-wide program slogan, providing the sign design complies with all provisions of this rule, and has been approved by the department before the sign is granted a permit or erected.

(3) Welcome to signs must not contain any form of commercial advertising, including any promotion of commercial products or services through slogans and information on where to obtain the products and services. Welcome to signs must not identify any private or public organizations or affiliations. 

(4) Qualifying welcome to sign applicants must first thoroughly explore all options to erect the sign off public right-of-way, and may request placement within the right-of-way only as the option of last resort.

(5) Welcome to signs must not be placed along interstate routes.

(6) Welcome to signs may only be placed in qualifying locations which meet the following requirements:

(a) within state-controlled right-of-way limits along controlled routes, except for interstate routes, upon verification by the sign owner that specific locations outside the right-of-way have been considered, but were unavailable;

(b) on private or other government-owned property adjacent to controlled routes, except for interstate routes, with permission of the landowner;

(c) outside of key decision points where a driver's attention is more appropriately focused on traffic control devices, roadway geometry, or traffic conditions;

(d) within five miles of a community for community signs, or within five miles of a county line for county signs, with no more than one welcome to sign in each direction;

(e) within an area where adequate spacing is available between the welcome to sign and other higher priority signs including all traffic control devices, where adequate space is defined as:

(i) 150 feet on roadways with speed limits of less than 30 mph;

(ii) 200 feet on roadways with speed limits of 30 to 45 mph; and

(iii) 500 feet on roadways with speed limits greater than 45 mph;

(f) in a position where they would not obscure the road users' view of other traffic control devices; and

(g) ten feet or more outside the highway clear zone, unless prior department approval for an exemption is given.

(7) Welcome to signs must meet all of the following design standards:

(a) the maximum area of the welcome to sign shall not exceed 150 square feet;

(b) the height above ground level shall not exceed 30 feet in height;

(c) lettering height must be at least four inches in height;

(d) the sign must not be attached to any other sign, sign assembly, or other traffic control device, including supports or any sign structures;

(e) the sign must not be affixed to fences, power poles, traffic signal poles or boxes, street lights, trees, or painted, or drawn upon rocks, or other natural features;

(f) the sign must not contain any messages, lights, symbols, or trademarks that resemble any official traffic control devices;

(g) the sign must not contain any internal illumination, light-emitted diodes (LED), luminous tubing, fiber optics, luminescent panels, or other flashing, moving, or animated features;

(h) the sign may be lighted by external spot lights if the lights are effectively shielded to prevent beams or rays of light from being directed at any portion of the traveled way of the highway, or are of such low intensity as to not cause glare, or to impair the vision of the driver of any motor vehicle, or to otherwise interfere with any driver's operation of a motor vehicle; and

(i) the sign must not distract from official traffic control messages such as regulatory, warning, or guidance messages.

(8) An outdoor advertising permit must be obtained for each welcome to sign, accompanied by a nonrefundable inspection fee. There is no initial permit fee or renewal fee for welcome to signs.

(9) An encroachment permit must be obtained from the department for each welcome to sign which will be located within the right-of-way limits of any controlled route. An encroachment permit is not required for welcome to signs which will be located on private or government-owned properties adjacent to the controlled route, which location is outside the state-controlled right-of-way limits.

(10) Welcome to signs must be initially installed and later maintained by the sign owner, at the sign owner's sole expense, by meeting all department rules for sign repair and maintenance.

(11) Sign owners who are granted an encroachment permit for a welcome to sign to be erected in state-controlled right-of-way must meet all department procedures for work within the right-of-way, including traffic control plans, if required by the department, and any other safety procedures required by the department. Welcome to sign owners must contact the department and receive department approval before conducting any work within state-controlled right-of-way limits.

(12) This rule applies to new and modified welcome to sign installations, and does not apply to welcome to signs which were erected by any community, county, or sovereign nation before the effective date of this rule, except previously erected welcome to signs must meet all maintenance requirements and procedures for work within the right-of-way under this rule.

(13) Any welcome to sign which is proposed for upgrade or structural modification beyond routine maintenance must obtain permits and meet all requirements of this rule.

(14) If a highway construction or reconstruction project, or placement of a newly installed higher-priority traffic control device, such as a higher-priority sign, a highway traffic signal, or a temporary traffic control device, as solely determined by the department, conflicts with an existing welcome to sign, the welcome to sign must be relocated, covered, or removed by the sign owner, at the department's directive.

History: 61-8-203, 75-15-121, MCA; IMP, 61-8-203, 75-15-111, 75-15-113, MCA; NEW, 2014 MAR p. 213, Eff. 1/31/14; AMD, 2016 MAR p. 1440, Eff. 8/20/16.

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