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Permits & Exemptions
The state regulates signs that are on private property and visible to state highways. (No signs, other than official traffic control devices, are allowed in state highway right-of-way.) Only some signs require a state permit. To determine which ones, we ask two questions. First, is the sign posted for compensation?  The compensation may be for the placement of someone else’s message on your sign (e.g. paid advertisement), or for the right to place your sign on someone else’s property.  Compensation is any kind of exchange of value including cash, barter, or even the forbearance of a debt or right.  If the sign is posted for compensation, it needs a state permit.  If the sign is not posted for compensation, the second question is whether the sign is at the location of some business or activity open to the public. If it is not at such a location, the sign needs a state permit.

Due to recent changes by the Oregon Legislature, in response to a decision by the Oregon Supreme Court, the Department now offers just one primary type of permit. However, signs on bus benches and bus shelters continue to have their own specialized type of permit.
Outdoor Advertising Sign Permit. These permits are for any size sign up to the maximum of 14’ x 48’ and may contain any message or information the applicant wants. However, they can be difficult to obtain. Your sign must be in a commercial or industrial zone, and meet spacing and other requirements. Also, Oregon has a cap-and-replace permit system. Technically, we don’t issue any brand new permits. Instead, we recycle the permits that existed as of the passage of the new law on May 31, 2007, (called “preexisting permits”) and issue updated permits for new signs and new locations. (If your sign has been on site continuously since 5/31/07, contact us about the possibility of qualifying for such a permit.) 
When one of these preexisting permits is not being used, we keep record of it so it can be used again in the future. These are called “relocation credits,” and they can be bought and sold in the private market. You will need a preexisting permit or a relocation credit to apply for this kind of permit.  A list of owners of relocation credits is included in the application packet.  Contact us before purchasing. The permit you buy limits the size of your sign and how far away from its original location you may build.  Once you own that permit or credit, you apply to this office to get an updated permit to build a sign at a new site. 
  • Bus Bench & Bus Shelter Sign permits. These permits are for placing signs on existing public transit bus benches or bus shelters. See the application packets to view the requirements.

Three types of signs are exempt from the permit requirement: 
  • Temporary Signs: signs that are up for less than 60 days in a year and are no more than 12 square feet may be exempt from needing a permit, and not posted for compensation. There are other criteria as well, so check the statute. ORS 377.735  You may qualify for a size variance for a sign up to 32 square feet. ORS 377.735

  • Signs of a Governmental Unit: a city, county, or other unit of government may place a sign for the purposes of carrying out their official duties. ORS 377.756 

  • Public Safety & Convenience Signs: a sign, no more than six square feet, that guides the public in the use of the highway system, may be exempt. Examples include signs for restrooms and freight entrances. ORS 377.735(4)