(1) Except as provided in ss. 479.105(1) and 479.16, a person may not erect, operate, use, or maintain, or cause to be erected, operated, used, or maintained, any sign on the State Highway System outside an urban area or on any portion of the interstate or federal-aid primary highway system without first obtaining a permit for the sign from the department and paying the annual fee as provided in this section. As used in this section, the term “on any portion of the State Highway System, interstate highway system, or federal-aid primary system” means a sign located within the controlled area which is visible from any portion of the main-traveled way of such system.
(2) Written permission of the owner or other person in lawful possession or control of the site designated as the location of the sign is required for issuance of a permit.
(3)(a) An application for a sign permit must be made on a form prescribed by the department, and a separate application must be submitted for each permit requested. A permit is required for each sign facing.
(b) As part of the application, the applicant or his or her authorized representative must certify that all information provided in the application is true and correct. Each permit application must be accompanied by the appropriate permit fee; a signed statement by the owner or other person in lawful control of the site on which the sign is located or will be erected, authorizing the placement of the sign on that site; a statement from the appropriate local governmental official indicating that the sign complies with all local government requirements; and, if a local government permit is required for a sign, a statement that the agency or unit of local government will issue a permit to that applicant upon approval of the state permit application by the department.
(c) The annual permit fee for each sign facing shall be established by the department by rule in an amount sufficient to offset the total cost to the department for the program, but may not be greater than $100. The first-year fee may be prorated by payment of an amount equal to one-fourth of the annual fee for each remaining whole quarter or partial quarter of the permit year. Applications received after the end of the third quarter of the permit year must include fees for the last quarter of the current year and fees for the succeeding year.
(4) An application for a permit shall be acted on by granting, denying, or returning the incomplete application within 30 days after receipt of the application by the department.
(5)(a) For each permit issued, the department shall furnish to the applicant a serially numbered permanent metal permit tag. The permittee is responsible for maintaining a valid permit tag on each permitted sign facing at all times. The tag shall be securely attached to the upper 50 percent of the sign structure, and attached in such a manner as to be plainly visible from the main-traveled way. The permit tag must be properly and permanently displayed at the permitted site within 30 days after the date of permit issuance. If the permittee fails to erect a completed sign on the permitted site within 270 days after the date on which the permit was issued, the permit will be void, and the department may not issue a new permit to that permittee for the same location for 270 days after the date on which the permit becomes void.
(b) If a permit tag is lost, stolen, or destroyed, the permittee to whom the tag was issued must apply to the department for a replacement tag. The department shall adopt a rule establishing a service fee for replacement tags in an amount that will recover the actual cost of providing the replacement tag. Upon receipt of the application accompanied by the service fee, the department shall issue a replacement permit tag.
(6) A permit is valid only for the location specified in the permit. Valid permits may be transferred from one sign owner to another upon written acknowledgment from the current permittee and submittal of a transfer fee of $5 for each permit to be transferred. However, the maximum transfer fee for any multiple transfer between two outdoor advertisers in a single transaction is $100.
(7) A permittee shall at all times maintain the permission of the owner or other person in lawful control of the sign site in order to have and maintain a sign at such site.
(8)(a) In order to reduce peak workloads, the department may adopt rules providing for staggered expiration dates for licenses and permits. Unless otherwise provided for by rule, all licenses and permits expire annually on January 15. All license and permit renewal fees are required to be submitted to the department by no later than the expiration date. At least 105 days before the expiration date of licenses and permits, the department shall send to each permittee a notice of fees due for all licenses and permits that were issued to him or her before the date of the notice. Such notice must list the permits and the permit fees due for each sign facing. The permittee shall, no later than 45 days before the expiration date, advise the department of any additions, deletions, or errors contained in the notice. Permit tags that are not renewed shall be returned to the department for cancellation by the expiration date. Permits that are not renewed or are canceled shall be certified in writing at that time as canceled or not renewed by the permittee, and permit tags for such permits shall be returned to the department or shall be accounted for by the permittee in writing, which writing shall be submitted with the renewal fee payment or the cancellation certification. However, failure of a permittee to submit a permit cancellation does not affect the nonrenewal of a permit. Before cancellation of a permit, the permittee shall provide written notice to all persons or entities having a right to advertise on the sign that the permittee intends to cancel the permit.
(b) If a permittee has not submitted his or her fee payment by the expiration date of the licenses or permits, the department shall send a notice of violation to the permittee within 45 days after the expiration date, requiring the payment of the permit fee within 30 days after the date of the notice and payment of a delinquency fee equal to 10 percent of the original amount due or, in the alternative to these payments, requiring the filing of a request for an administrative hearing to show cause why the sign should not be subject to immediate removal due to expiration of his or her license or permit. If the permittee submits payment as required by the violation notice, the license or permit shall be automatically reinstated and such reinstatement is retroactive to the original expiration date. If the permittee does not respond to the notice of violation within the 30-day period, the department shall, within 30 days, issue a final notice of sign removal and may, following 90 days after the date of the department’s final notice of sign removal, remove the sign without incurring any liability as a result of such removal. However, if at any time before removal of the sign, the permittee demonstrates that a good faith error on the part of the permittee resulted in cancellation or nonrenewal of the permit, the department may reinstate the permit if:
1. The permit reinstatement fee of up to $300 based on the size of the sign is paid;
2. All other permit renewal and delinquent permit fees due as of the reinstatement date are paid; and
3. The permittee reimburses the department for all actual costs resulting from the permit cancellation or nonrenewal.
(c) Conflicting applications filed by other persons for the same or competing sites covered by a permit subject to paragraph (b) may not be approved until after the sign subject to the expired permit has been removed.
(d) The cost for removing a sign by the department or an independent contractor shall be assessed by the department against the permittee.
(9)(a) A permit may not be granted for any sign for which a permit had not been granted by the effective date of this act unless such sign is located at least:
1. One thousand five hundred feet from any other permitted sign on the same side of the highway, if on an interstate highway.
2. One thousand feet from any other permitted sign on the same side of the highway, if on a federal-aid primary highway.
The minimum spacing provided in this paragraph does not preclude the permitting of V-type, back-to-back, side-to-side, stacked, or double-faced signs at the permitted sign site. If a sign is visible to more than one highway subject to the jurisdiction of the department and within the controlled area of the highways, the sign must meet the permitting requirements of all highways and be permitted to the highway having the more stringent permitting requirements.
(b) A permit may not be granted for a sign pursuant to this chapter to locate such sign on any portion of the interstate or federal-aid primary highway system, which sign:
1. Exceeds 50 feet in sign structure height above the crown of the main-traveled way to which the sign is permitted, if outside an incorporated area;
2. Exceeds 65 feet in sign structure height above the crown of the main-traveled way to which the sign is permitted, if inside an incorporated area; or
3. Exceeds 950 square feet of sign facing including all embellishments.
(c) Notwithstanding subparagraph (a)1., the distance between permitted signs on the same side of an interstate highway may be reduced to 1,000 feet if all other requirements of this chapter are met and if:
1. The local government has adopted a plan, program, resolution, ordinance, or other policy encouraging the voluntary removal of signs in a downtown, historic, redevelopment, infill, or other designated area which also provides for a new or replacement sign to be erected on an interstate highway within that jurisdiction if a sign in the designated area is removed;
2. The sign owner and the local government mutually agree to the terms of the removal and replacement; and
3. The local government notifies the department of its intention to allow such removal and replacement as agreed upon pursuant to subparagraph 2.
(d) This subsection does not cause a sign that was conforming on October 1, 1984, to become nonconforming.
(10) Commercial or industrial zoning that is not comprehensively enacted or that is enacted primarily to permit signs may not be recognized as commercial or industrial zoning for purposes of this provision, and permits may not be issued for signs in such areas. The department shall adopt rules that provide criteria to determine whether such zoning is comprehensively enacted or enacted primarily to permit signs.