Most local governments have the authority to regulate signs in their communities, and do so through zoning ordinances.  These ordinances generally regulate the use, location, and aesthetics of signs.

How Are Signs Classified?

Ordinances usually classify signs into the following categories: 

  • Attached or freestanding signs
  • Temporary or permanent signs
  • Paper or cardboard signs
  • Billboards
  • Public signs

What Factors Do Zoning Authorities Consider When Approving a Sign?

Generally, before a business or group can install a sign, a government agency will need to approve the sign’s design.  Some factors include: 

  • Size – There are many different ways to measure a sign, but almost all communities are concerned with the size of the sign in relation to the building and surrounding area. 
  • Lighting – Glare and brightness are two common concerns.  Some communities may have restrictions against the use of neon lighting and animated or flashing signs, which may distract drivers.
  • Location – Whether your sign is attached to a building or free standing is the most common regulation.
  • Color – Often the number of colors that may be used is regulated as well as the color when the sign is in a historic area.
  • Materials – There may be architectural or design standards that must be considered, especially in historic areas.

Are There Maintenance Requirements?

Most communities with sign ordinances will mandate safety and aesthetic regulations.  An attorney familiar with zoning regulations in your area can advise you of the required standards.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Comply with Sign Regulations?

If you have a business with a sign, or wish to construct or paint a sign for your business, an experienced real property attorney can explain the ordinances for your community.  A real property lawyer can also help you if you have been cited for a sign believed to violate your local ordinances.