Things to keep in mind while getting a sign permit

Are you trying to get a sign permit? Buckle up for success! Let’s dive into the essential insights that you should keep in mind while applying for a permit to maximize your chance of successful, trouble-free and on-time permit approval.

A. Study the design:
It is very important to study your design and understand what you or your client is actually wanting. You should keep in mind the big things like the preferred type of sign, how big or small you want it to be, the spot where you want to place your sign, how many signs you need etc.

B. Do your research:
Make sure your design file sticks with the sign ordinance of your city. Study what you are allowed as per your municipality’s rules (See this article for a brief understanding of a city’s signage ordinance). You want to know the city allowances for your signage and the requirements of getting a sign permit.

Best practice is to include a section of “city code” in your design file and mention required details or allowances in it. This will show the city reviewer you have put effort in studying your design and you are following the ordinance.

Most of the cities need the contractor to be registered with city to do sign work. Some cities need your contractor registration only if you are putting up an illuminated sign. Cities also have different requirements for your contractor registration and those may include your liability insurance, worker’s compensation, state license, driver’s license and business license. You can find all these requirements written in your city’s sign ordinance.

C. Ask for help!
If you feel stuck at any stage, it’s always a very good idea to simply call the city’s planning or municipal department and ask for help. Search for the planning and zoning or code enforcement department of your jurisdiction on internet and simply ring them up to discuss your project. Remember it’s always recommended to discuss your project before starting any legal process. City municipal offices are always ready to help and appreciate you reaching out to them.

You can discuss your project by first letting them know your project location address and give a brief introduction of your project or what you are trying to do. Some questions that you may want to ask are:
  1. Confirm if you need a permit based on your project scope? And what permits are needed? (Separate electrical permits are required for electrical signs, Excavation permit is required for ground signs etc)
  2. Confirm if where you have called is the correct jurisdiction to get a sign permit from.
  3. Where can you find application form?
  4. What is the mode of permit application submission? (Online via email, online via permit portal, by mail or drop off in person)
  5. Do you need to attend any review meetings? And where can you find and confirm meeting schedule and agenda. (Some common meetings are Design review meeting, ARC meeting, planning commission meeting. And submission deadlines to get on meeting agenda is usually communicated prior submission as well.)
  6. What will you need to submit along with the application and art file? (certificate of occupancy, owner’s consent are some examples of additional required documents)
  7. What is the estimated review time? (It can vary anywhere between 5 business days to 30 or more days. You should know it to plan your project accordingly)
  8. What are the contractor requirements to pull permit? (If the contractor needs to be registered in city also or state contractor’s license will be enough. They may also ask for your insurances – liability and disability insurance- and state’s workers compensation form too)
  9. You can also ask for any section of sign ordinance that you are unable to grasp.

Once you know briefly what to do and how to do, you can start your permitting process. Take your time and fill out the application form and include as many details as possible in your design file. Submit the application via proper channel and sit back & relax. Ideally you should follow up once a week to track progress. You can also track progress online if you are using a online portal for permitting. City reviewer will let you know of any pending documents or pushbacks in your design. Permits timeline vary greatly depending on your location and state but Expect to hear back within 15 days about your permit approval or rejection. Once it is approved you will be notified to pay fees and get the permit issued. Make sure to keep in mind the permit expiry date (which is usually 6 months from the day of issuance of permit) and plan your sign install before it. Also confirm if you will need any more permits before starting your work.

Remember, getting a sign permit is a bit like creating the perfect sign itself - it's all about precision, a dash of creativity, and avoiding any 'permit-perils' along the way! Happy Permitting! :)
 
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Great article, it's very informative and right to the point. I didn't know there was so many requirements and rules when it comes to signs, but I guess it makes sense with how things are these days.

Does this also count for those putting up signs and posters at other places like on a store window?
 
Thanks for another great article, @Fatima Naz. You are obviously very pragmatic in how you approach the research and coordination that go into obtaining a sign permit. I especially enjoyed the "ask for help" section, where you walked us through some of the basic questions you like to ask permit office staff. I think departments often try to address many of these items in their application materials, but you'd nevertheless want to inquire about them just to be sure you fully understand the reality of the situation. For example, one item you suggest inquiring about is estimated review time. Even if a department's written materials cite estimated review times (e.g., those stated in the ordinance/regulation), you can't necessarily trust that this reflects current review times because various factors (e.g., staffing issues, high workload, etc.) can affect how the permit process is currently being managed. Speaking with permitting staff and asking them this question directly really is the best way to ensure you have a full understanding and aren't hit with any surprises.
 
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