The number one question heard from business owners is, “How soon can we get our sign?” The answer is always a conditional, “It depends.” And what does it almost always depend on? The permit. Simply stated, almost all exterior commercial sign projects require a building or planning permit from the local city, town or planning office.
At Allied Electric Sign & Awning, we’re fortunate to have two team members, both with 20+ years in the sign industry, who focus primarily on permits and knowing the codes and the zones to help our customers get their projects through the local systems as quickly and efficiently as possible. So what exactly does that mean? Here are a few samples of how their know-how helps. For example:
- Highly Restrictive – One local county has highly restrictive rules where all signs must be under a certain height, cannot have certain bright colors or must be use earthy tones.
- 12 Zones – In a neighboring county there are twelve different zones including historical, commercial, planned, residential, light-industrial, etc. Each of them have different stipulations for signage which vary greatly.
- New vs. Retrofit – Some businesses can retrofit their existing signage but ordinances could stipulate that if they move or another tenant takes over the location, they wouldn’t be allowed the same type, size or amount of signage. For example, a customer recently came for an awning recover. They wanted to add graphics to the awning to better promote their business as there were graphics on the old awing of the former business. They were not allowed to as the code had changed as they were a “new” business (but the recover looked great!).
- Graphics & Sign Size – Some cities will permit graphics, channel letters or signage based on the square footage or linear store front footage of the building. Others look to the amount of floor space a business occupies while a rare few don’t seem to mind too much as long as you get a permit.
- Pole Signs & Monuments – Many cities will allow a pole sign or monument sign based on sufficient street lot footage. There are many variations, and other restrictions especially if you’re considering an Electronic Message Center (EMC).
As you can tell from these few examples, you really need to know your codes, zones and what is permissible before you start discussing or designing the actual sign.
Our permit gurus also recommend knowing what is required for each permit by the city. For example, most cities require at least:
- Several sets of complete sign drawings and photos that are scaled showing the existing space and the proposed signage (including square footage).
- If it’s a monument or pole sign, certified engineering drawings will be required.
- The specific city/municipality filing form (which will include customer contact information, often property or landlord information, materials list, etc.).
- Some states require energy documentation on electrical use.
- Cost – Again, it depends on the city. There are still a few that charge by the sign but most charge by a formula of the square footage. We’ve seen a few dollars to thousands of dollars for massive signs. The average seems to be in the hundreds of dollars range.
Next the permit is reviewed by the city. Depending on the workload of the city, this can take from 7 to 15 business days to hear back from them initially. If you don’t know the code, it can be rejected or be delayed for weeks or months while – as stated in the title – you go back and forth with them working through the details. If you’ve done your homework, everything has been submitted properly, it should go through quickly and then it’s off to manufacturing! With every sign and awning project Allied Electric Sign & Awning handles all of the permitting for our customers so they don’t need to deal with the time and headache of working through this process.
Bottom line, the more you know and do before you submit your permit, the smoother and faster it will go and the sooner you’ll be enjoy your new beautiful sign or awning!