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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).

(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. The name only, without any promotional information, of a sponsor, benefactor, or support group may be recognized on welcome to signs. Names of sponsors, benefactors, or support groups must be secondary to the welcome to sign. The area of the welcome to sign dedicated to a sponsor, benefactor, or sponsor group name must not be larger than one third the total size of the welcome to sign.

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

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

(b) within state-controlled right-of-way limits along controlled routes, except for interstate routes, if placed 10 feet or more outside the highway clear zone, unless prior department approval has been given through the encroachment permit process. Right-of-way locations require verification by the applicant that at least two specific locations outside the right-of-way have been considered, but were unavailable; and

(c) where the welcome to sign does not distract drivers from official traffic control messages such as regulatory, warning, or guidance messages as determined by the department.

(5) Welcome to signs must not:

(a) exceed 300 square feet in area;

(b) contain lettering with a height of less than four inches;

(c) be attached to any other sign, sign assembly, or other traffic control device, including supports or any sign structures;

(d) be affixed to fences, power poles, traffic signal poles or boxes, street lights, trees, or painted, or drawn upon rocks, or other natural features;

(e) contain any messages, lights, symbols, or trademarks that resemble any official traffic control devices;

(f) contain any flashing, moving, or animated features;

(g) be lighted by external spot lights unless 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;

(h) be located near key decision points where a driver's attention is more appropriately focused on traffic control devices, roadway geometry, or traffic conditions; and

(i) be maintained from highway right-of-way except as stated in (9).

(6) An outdoor advertising permit must be obtained by the community, county, or sovereign nation for each welcome to sign, accompanied by a nonrefundable inspection fee. There is no initial permit fee or renewal fee for welcome to signs. A private applicant is not eligible for a welcome to sign permit.

(7) A welcome to sign permit will not be considered in determining spacing required between other non-welcome to signs or permitted off-premise advertising signs.

(8) 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.

(9) Welcome to sign applicants who are granted an encroachment permit for a welcome to sign to be erected in state-controlled right-of-way must conform with all requirements of the assigned encroachment permit prior to performing any installation of or maintenance to the welcome to sign.

(10) A welcome to sign owner proposing sign modifications beyond routine maintenance must submit a modification application and receive department approval prior to modification.

(11) 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, conflicts with an existing welcome to sign located within the existing state-controlled right-of-way, the welcome to sign must be relocated, covered, or removed by the sign owner, at the sign owner's expense, at the department's sole determination and directive.

(12) The department reserves the right to deny any welcome to sign permit application that may negatively impact the traveling public.

(13) Existing welcome to signs must comply with this rule within one year, or before May 12, 2019.


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; AMD, 2018 MAR p. 971, Eff. 5/12/18.

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