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What Signs are Legal and Time Needed to Procure a Permit

signs requiring permits

When sign permits are required, time needed to complete permit application, and possible illegal usage of flashing arrow sign.

Question: Can I put up a sign on my own property without a sign permit?

metallic yard signage You may put up a sign on your property in some areas without a permit, but most major towns and cities consider signs a source of revenue, so they require permits.

They also require permits for signs based on zones in many municipalities. If you are in a commercial and industrial zone, there are usually fairly relaxed regulations on the size of sign you can put up, but if the signs get over a certain square footage, engineering requirements will need to be met.

In our local area, how high the sign is and the size of the sign require a signature by a structural engineer if it is over a certain size or height or a combination of both factors.

If, however, you are simply putting a “Home For Sale” sign or a political campaign sign in your yard, there will be no requirement in most areas for a permit. Check with the local building department in your area, though, for clarification of the laws for your town, city, or county.

Question: How long does it take to get a sign permit?

It will depend entirely on your municipality or county and what size of sign you are planning to have installed.

If the sign exceeds a certain height and/or size, it will most certainly require an engineers sign off on your blueprint or drawings, as these signs require specific types and/or thicknesses of steel as well as a specific amount of ballast (concrete) around the base of the pole in the ground. There may also be varying types of soil or rock in your area, and this could affect how much ballast weight or volume your sign system requires.

So, often you may be able to get your permit the day you go in if your blueprint is for a smaller sign; if you’ve already gotten a sign off from a structural engineer; and the size and style of the sign is acceptable within that area’s zoning requirements. Some areas will not allow pole signs. Square footage restrictions are also common with many municipalities and counties as well, especially in residential areas, as most homeowners are not OK with a large sign in their neighborhood.

The best way, as I’ve advocated before, is to hire a professional sign company to handle everything for you, so you can concentrate on doing the things you do best, like making money for your business.

Question: Can I use a portable sign with a flashing arrow?

flashing arrow lights It will depend entirely on the area in which you live. Many cities have outlawed flashing lights or chase lights (flashing lights that “chase” each other around the perimeter of a sign) because they’re a distraction to drivers, yet the same city or county government will allow electronic readerboards which are even more distracting, in my view, because you want to read them.

In our area, portable signs of any type have been outlawed, so obviously portable flashing arrow signs are no longer legal; neither are “chase lights,”  but you’ll have to check your local codes with the building department in your area.

But electronic readerboards, for some odd reason, are allowable (easier to tax is my suspicion). In fact, the city and county will use electronic readerboards to direct traffic away from an accident or warn of impending road construction.


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Barry K. Brown

Barry Brown has been in the Sign, Banner, Decal and Display Business for over 20 years. It isn't what he thought he'd do with his life, but he says he knows too much now to do anything else!

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