Even though electronic message centers have been around for many years many sign ordinances have not keep up with this technology. This fact can make it a challenge to know if your new LED sign will be permitted or, if it is, what specific rules will apply to the daily operation of it. However there are some tools you can use to get past the bureaucratic obstacles if you are willing to spend some time researching the actual codes. This article will help you learn to navigate LED sign regulations in your community.
1. Find out your zoning district
Every city has zoning districts that have their own rules on signage, including LED signs. Business districts normally allow more signage options while residential districts may not allow any signage unless you are a church or school.
Call or go to your city’s web site and look for a zoning map. This is usually available in the Planing, Zoning, or Land Use Area of the website. A general search for "city name zoning map” usually provides good results. This is the first step toward understanding how government regulations could affect your LED sign options and will be used in step three: Review your sign code.
2. Get your property line locations measurements
Many sign codes base the allowable size of your sign on the length of your property line. You may already have a survey or Plat Map of your property. If not, these records are kept by county property tax assessors’ office.
Most of these offices have a website where you can search a properties address. The results of the search will usually have a link to an online version of the Plat Map. If you have any problems with this search you can call the assessors office directly. The Plat Map also will be helpful as you review your city or township’s sign code to determine options for your LED sign in the next step.
3. Review your sign code.
Most cities post their sign codes online. Some host it locally while some may use websites like American Legal or Municode. Researching sign codes can be a daunting task, but necessary when navigating LED sign regulations. Here are a few points to keep in mind when reading through the codes.
- The sign code is usually in the Zoning, Planing, Land Use, or Development section of the city’s main code.
- Codes usually present the overall code first, then prohibited signs, then specific restrictions for each zoning district.
- If the code is in electronic form it is usually searchable. Searching for signage will usually get you to the correct section.
- There is usually a definitions section in the code. The code may say “flashing signs are prohibited.” If so, you will want to look at the definitions section to see if LED signs are considered to be in this group. If they are not there may be a separate definition for them.
4. Verify your findings
You can call the city and ask to speak with a city planner and let them know you are researching permitting for an LED sign. Anything the planner says regarding restrictions must be backed up by a specific part of the code.
You have the right to ask for the code reference for any restrictions. If you feel the planner is not familiar with the sign code ask to speak with someone who is. Remember you get more with honey than vinegar so always be polite and courteous.
Getting into LED sign regulations and the sign code in your area can be a challenge, but it is worth the effort to make sure you know the regulations for the property where the LED sign will be installed.