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5 Ways Local Codes Can Limit Your Use of Signs

Barber and Bakery Shop
When you decide to add a new sign to advertise your business, you have a lot more to consider than just the type, design, and cost. The county and city where you want to install a sign can place plenty of restrictions on advertising materials displayed to the public. Each county, city, or other municipal organization sets its own rules for signage and can change those codes at any time.
While these codes can't necessarily determine what you display on the sign, the rules can control almost every other sign detail. Make sure to check out if any of these restrictions will affect your sign before you order any custom work.

1. Height Restrictions

Height restrictions are some of the most common sign codes in use across the U.S. Signs that are too tall can block a driver's view of the road, pose a distraction, or interfere with power transmission lines and their maintenance. Even billboards and similar tall signs must conform to the various height restrictions of the area.
Most areas are happy to consider the installation of a sign taller than current code if the sign owner is prepared to apply for a variance. These variances are based on specific site conditions, so if you can prove that a taller sign won't affect anything based on its placement, you will likely receive permission to go higher than the code usually allows.

2. Placement Limitations

Limits on the placement of signs is a problem you'll run into not just with county and city display codes, but also with restrictions set by individual property owners and shopping center managers. Many retail areas greatly limit placement options to the business itself and the shared entrance signs.
While you can usually petition for a variance around any specific city or county code, private property owners and associations may or may not offer these options. So you must check out the sign and advertising restrictions placed by a leaseholder or property management company before you start a lease.

3. Adult Displays

The content of a sign is a protected form of free speech according to the U.S. Supreme Court, as affirmed in the Reed v Town of Gilbert case. However, a few types of adult-related content are still legally restricted by many municipalities. In particular, advertisements for alcohol, tobacco products, gambling, and adult entertainment are all highly regulated in most areas.
If you're trying to advertise a package store or casino with your signs, you may need to make them smaller or keep them located in areas away from schools and churches. Some local codes allow sign owners to bypass these restrictions if the signs aren't explicit about the nature of the business and don't contain images of the products.

4. Display Time Controls

Temporary signs are highly controlled by local codes across the country, and this measure is largely helpful due to the propensity for outdated signs to clutter up medians and roadsides. For example, signs left behind after an election or local road race become clutter rather than useful announcements.
If you're going to use temporary signs to raise awareness, be prepared with a plan to remove them in a timely fashion. Some codes are so strict that they call for removing temporary roadside signs within a few days of the end of the advertised event.

5. Illumination Levels

Finally, overly bright signs can contribute to light pollution or create driving hazards at night. Before you make grand plans for a complex illumination system, make sure your ideas will pass with your local public illumination ordinances.
Reach out to us today at Grant Signs DP Industries LLC for help designing a sign that meets all of Madison's various codes.