Island County, Washington

From Stanwood/Camano News 3/28/2000 (Reproduced with permission)

The Light Rules

New, tougher lighting rules are now in effect in Island county's unincorporated areas. They apply to everybody -- private property as well as businesses -- and existing lighting must comply to the new rules within three years. Here's a look at some key parts of the law:


  • Lighting fixtures must be shielded, hooded and oriented towards the ground so that direct rays are not visible past the property boundaries and do not shine into the night sky. Motion- sensing devices are encouraged.
  • No lighting can blink, flash or be of unusually high intensity or brightness.
  • New or replacement lighting on county roads must be shielded and pointed downward.
  • Seasonal decorative lighting is OK.
  • Temporary, emergency lighting is OK
  • Lighting at public athletic fields, fairgrounds and approved temporary special events is OK.
  • Fixtures of 60 watts or less are OK.
  • Exemptions include lighting fixtures that use only fossil fuels, including luminaria, or incandescent lighting fixtures installed on residential structures, fixtures that light parking areas, driveways, private sports areas or outbuildings are not exempt.
  • Externally lit signs must be illuminated only with steady, stationary, shielded light sources directed downward onto the sign without causing glare. Light bulbs or lighting tubes used for illuminating a sign cannot be visible form adjacent public right-of-ways or residential properties.
  • The intensity of sign lighting must not exceed that necessary to illuminate and make a sign legible. In any event, it can't be obtrusive to other areas.
  • Internally illuminated signs are prohibited.
  • A sign may be illuminated during the hours of operation of the facility being identified or advertised, or until 11 p.m., whichever is later. Such signs must have an automatic timer.


New rules on signs are also in place. Hers' a brief glance at some of the main points:

  • Only one sign can be located on the premises, not exceeding nine square feet in area per side. Larger signs may be considered if architecturally integrated into and attached to the building. No sign may exceed eight feet in height.
  • A sign, including its supporting structure and components, shall be compatible in design to the building it's attached to or to surrounding structures as determined by the planning director.
  • Sign colors shall be architecturally compatible and be of sufficient contrast to be legible, but subdued enough to blend with the natural landscape and/or surrounding structures. The majority of the background area of a sign, exclusive of any letter, words or symbols, must be of earth or dark color or made of materials such as rock, natural wood, old wood, tile, brick, etc. Bright or fluorescent colors and reflective surfaces in the background area of the sign are prohibited.
  • All light fixtures, conduit and shielding must be painted to match either the building or the supporting structure that serves as the background of the sign.
  • No more than one freestanding identification sign can be located on the main entrance to the complex or project, and monument-style signs are preferred over pole-mounted signs. Freestanding signs up to 18 feet high, and monument signs up to 10 feet high may be OK.
  • Flashing signs, moving light signs and off-premise signs are prohibited, except for time-temperature-date signs.
  • Attached signs can't exceed by more than four feet the height of the building or structure to which they are attached.
  • Total signage can't exceed 100 square feet in are per business. Of that, freestanding signs can't exceed 40 square feet in area per side.
  • Signs in windows, such as logos, "Open", "Beer", etc. don't count toward the allowed sign area.