Hands of a person going over permitting paperwork

If you are considering replacing or updating your signage package, there is a high probability that you will need to obtain permits from your local municipality. Monument signs, pylon signs, and other large non-structural fixtures typically require a building permit. Each municipality will have its own requirements and procedures for permitting your signs, and navigating these processes can be a frustrating, time-consuming process.

The good news: there are signage firms equipped with full-service, in-house permitting departments to handle the entire process for you. A knowledgeable team will use their expertise to identify the requirements for your property, provide design concepts that meet your municipality’s code, and complete the requisite paperwork to secure your permits.

We would like to share some best practices we have picked up over the years to help you avoid some of the most common pitfalls of permitting so your project stays on track.

Design To Code

Every community has varying priorities for how they want their residential and commercial zones to be branded; your signage package is a key element of that look and function. This is why all municipalities have local codes that govern how signs look as well as building codes to ensure public safety. Some examples of design factors and complexities that must be navigated between municipalities to ensure compliance include:

  • The number of signs allowed on the property (depends on the neighborhood and type of business);
  • The size of large sign structures and the admissible square footage of graphics that can be on the sign;
  • How far the sign must be placed from roads and property lines to ensure adequate driver sight lines;
  • What type of illumination is allowed, if any (for example, internal lighting, external lighting, if neon is permitted, the direction of external light structures)

A permit-focused design team will consider all these factors and more to create the best signage package for your business – designing according to code is the best way to avoid expensive project changes and permitting delays.

Document Preparation

It is essential to work with capable project managers who communicate the documentation needed with differing municipal requirements. A permit coordinator will prepare all applications, supporting documents, and specification drawings. Working with a seasoned signage permit professional provides an efficient, straightforward, and reliable document preparation process. In addition, working with a team that has extensive knowledge of identifying municipal codes from previous projects and the know-how to navigate complex bureaucratic processes gets your permit approved quickly. Common items that delay putting together a complete application package include:

  • ALTA Survey Map – most building departments require an accurate, detailed survey map of the property prepared and signed by a professional survey company, which may take time to locate;
  • Inaccurate Addressing – some municipalities are particular about the address on the application and the county property appraiser’s matching. If they do not have the correct address, the approval process is delayed as minor discrepancies are resolved;
  • Additional Applications and Forms – sometimes the permitting authority will request additional forms once the application has been submitted.

It is important to understand every municipality is different and to be flexible and responsive to keep your application moving towards approval.

Realistic Timelines

Due to the plethora of variation between municipalities, the timelines to receive approvals for your permits will also likely differ. The process can range in complexity, with different types of applications, varying resources dedicated to approving permitting, and a severe backlog of projects due to delays from COVID-19.

The key to working with busy bureaucracies is persistence! Proactively tracking all applications, following up promptly to get answers, and providing a quick turn-around if design adjustments are necessary is the sign of an experienced signage partner. A committed permit department will make permitting your signage package painless so you can focus on your business.

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