(a) Except as in this article otherwise provided, no person shall construct, erect, operate, use, maintain or cause or permit to be constructed, erected, operated, used or maintained any advertising sign, display or device without first obtaining a permit for the advertising sign, display or device from the commissioner and paying the annual fee for the advertising sign, display or device as provided in this section. The commissioner shall not issue a permit to any person who has not obtained the license provided for in section thirteen of this article.
(b) A separate application for a permit shall be made for each separate advertising sign, display or device, on a form furnished by the commissioner, the application shall be signed by the applicant or his or her representative duly authorized in writing to act for him or her and shall describe and set forth the size, shape and the nature of the proposed advertising sign, display or device and its actual or proposed location with sufficient accuracy to enable the commissioner to locate and identify it. Every application for a changeable message sign shall be accompanied by a fee of $500, which shall be retained by the commissioner if the permit is issued. Every application for all other signs shall be accompanied by a fee of $20 for each advertising sign, display or device, which shall be retained by the commissioner if the permit is issued. In addition, a nonrefundable inspection fee of $75 shall be charged for each proposed location along interstate and federal-aid primary highways. A nonrefundable inspection fee of $25 shall be charged for each proposed location along all other public roads. An annual permit renewal fee, not to exceed $60 per permit, shall be charged for renewal of each changeable message sign. Permit renewal fees for all other signs shall be established by legislative rule not to exceed $25 per permit annually. Each portion of an advertising sign upon which a display is posted or exhibited constitutes a separate advertising sign for purposes of this section. If the permit is refused, the commissioner shall make and enter an order to that effect and shall cause a copy of the order to be served on the applicant by certified mail, return receipt requested, and shall refund one-half the fee to the applicant. The order shall be accompanied by findings of fact and conclusions of law upon which the order was made and entered. Each application shall be accompanied by an affidavit of the applicant or his or her agent that the owner or other person in control or possession of the real property upon which the advertising sign, display or device is to be constructed, erected, operated, used or maintained has consented to having the advertising sign, display or device on his or her property. Application shall be made in like manner for a permit to operate, use or maintain any existing advertising sign, display or device. Permits issued under this section expire on June 30 of each year and shall not be prorated and may be renewed upon the payment of a renewal fee as provided in this section. No application is required for a renewal of a permit.
(c) For all signs other than changeable message signs, if more than one side of an advertising sign is used for advertising, a permit application or renewal fee for each side is required. One permit application or renewal fee shall be charged for each changeable message sign. Advertisements sculptured in the round shall be treated as using three sides.
(d) The holder of a permit, during the term of the permit, has the right to change the advertising copy of the structure or sign for which it was issued without payment of any additional fee.
(e) The commissioner may, after thirty days' notice in writing to the permittee, make and enter an order revoking any permit issued by him or her under this section upon repayment of a proportionate part of the fee in any case where it shall appear to the commissioner that the application for the permit contains knowingly false or misleading information or that the permittee has violated any of the provisions of this article, unless the permittee shall, before the expiration of the thirty days, correct the false or misleading information and comply with the provisions of this article. The order shall be accompanied by findings of fact and conclusions of law upon which the order was made and entered. If the construction, erection, operation, use or maintenance of any advertising sign, display or device for which a permit is issued by the commissioner and the permit fee has been paid as provided for in this section is prevented by any zoning board, commission or other public agency which also has jurisdiction over the proposed advertising sign, display or device, or its site, the fee for the advertising sign, display or device shall be returned by the commissioner and the permit revoked. But one-half the fee shall be considered to have accrued upon the erection of an advertising sign or structure or the display of advertising material followed by any inspection by the commissioner or his or her representatives.
(f) Any person adversely affected by an order made and entered by the commissioner refusing to grant or revoking a permit is entitled to judicial review of the order. The judicial review shall be: (1) In the county in which the person applying for the permit has his or her principal place of business in this state; or (2) in the circuit court for the county in which the sign for which the permit is sought is to be located; or (3) in the circuit court of Kanawha County if all parties agree. The judgment of the circuit court is final unless reversed, vacated or modified on appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia. Legal counsel and services for the commissioner in appeal proceedings in any circuit court and the Supreme Court of Appeals shall be provided by the Attorney General or his or her assistants, and in appeal proceedings in any circuit court by the prosecuting attorney of the county as well, all without additional compensation. The commissioner may employ special counsel to represent the commissioner in a particular proceeding.