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Lummi Island’s iconic signs to come down after complaint

Several of signs located at the end of the ferry terminal on Lummi Island (September 21, 2019). Photo courtesy of Jackie Granger of Lummi Island Concierge.

Lummi Island businesses with wayfinding signs set by the island’s ferry terminal got a call recently telling them their signs violated state and county laws and had to be removed.

Over a dozen signs currently direct visitors and locals to island businesses like bike rentals, art galleries, cafes and massage services. This sign forest, as some locals have referred to it, is on the west side of S Nugent Road across from the ferry terminal loading and unloading area. It’s the first thing ferry passengers see after disembarking.

A Whatcom County employee recently called the phone numbers on all the signs and gave them the bad news according to business owners. They were told they had until October 2nd to remove the signs since a complaint had been received.

Word spread quickly across the island community and many took to social media to express their unhappiness with the decision. Recurring questions in the comments posted included, “What was the harm?” and “Why would someone complain?” Several locals pointed out that signs had been located there for as long as memories could recall. Calls for a petition and contacting county councilmembers to allow the signs to stay were suggested.

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According to Whatcom County Engineering Senior Engineering Technician Rodney Vandersypen, there are 3 laws being enforced as a result of the complaint received. They are:

  • RCW 46.61.075 (2)Display of unauthorized signs, signals, or markings.
    No person shall place or maintain nor shall any public authority permit upon any highway any traffic sign or signal bearing thereon any commercial advertising.
  • Whatcom County Code: 20.80.410 Signs – General provisions – Applicable to all districts.
    (1) No sign or any portion of a sign shall be located on or over public property, such as road rights-of-way and easements, transmission line corridors or utility easements. Standard building height limits and setbacks shall apply to all signs unless otherwise provided elsewhere in this title or in other county codes or regulations including the county’s Shoreline Management Program. All freestanding signs advertising on-premises operations may be located within required landscaping areas, except that no such sign shall be closer than 10 feet to the road right-of-way. This distance shall be increased if it can be shown to present a traffic hazard.
  • Whatcom County Executive Order 89-8 Placement of Signs on County Road Rights of Way
    Private signs of a more permanent type, such as signs directing persons to private businesses or advertising any product, shall not be permitted on county right of way.

Lummi Island property owner Leela Holcroft told My Ferndale News, “Those signs have been a part of what makes living and visiting Lummi Island fun. They are colorful and eclectic.”

There has been no official word regarding what action Lummi Islanders may formally take in response to the County’s take down notice.


  1. Paul Davis September 22, 2019

    A law should have a reason for existing – which, in this case, it doesn’t. Let’s see if public outcry can have any influence on the law makers in their white tower.

  2. Linda Reamer September 22, 2019

    I HOPE the Islander’s Fight this .. WAY to many people are being offended by ridiculous NOTHINGS !!! This person that complained has to much time on their hands and needs to get a life !!

  3. Kimberly (Cole) Keck September 23, 2019

    I am sad that someone finds the signs offensive. These signs are for welcoming and directing visitors to local businesses, a good thing for the local economy.
    The Island residents pay some of the highest taxes in the County and when I lived there, were some of the last to receive services. To live on the Island you depend on community to clear roads after high winds and to take care of each other during winter storms.
    The signs are not unsightly billboards and are helpful to visitors. They do not pose a hazard to anyone and are not a distraction.
    Surely the County Board of Adjustment can do something to exempt these signs from the current statutes.

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