Permits… How many do I need?

So, we all know sign permitting can be frustrating. There are many steps in the research process, emails and phone tag with department heads, getting applications and payments sent in, and of course, we’re dealing with government agencies. Here you’ll find a few hints and tips that will hopefully make your permitting process go a little smoother, allowing you to move on to the next sale that much quicker.

Many new business owners find out about the myriad of permits needed to open a business as they work through the process for the first time. That trend continues with signs.

Sign, electrical, and in some cases, a building permit are required to install a sign. The procedure is not the same in each city, township, or village, but there are some similarities to help you through the process.

Start with the building, zoning and planning departments.

  • Search their websites for permit applications.
  • Download and save them to a folder for future use and look for updates each year. Fees change often.
  • If you have a PDF program like Nitro, which allows you to customize a PDF file to make each entry field fillable, do it. Completing an application for a new client in the same city or township each time you need a permit is now quicker.  Often you can make fillable fields with the same information work on multiple applications to speed up the process. Permanent fields can be completed and saved too.

Make a cheat sheet.

There are a lot of details to cover when working through the permitting process. Worksheets that help you to fill in the blanks make the process much easier. Create a standard form for this information.

  • List each city you install a sign.
  • Who is the contact person?
  • How much does each permit type cost? (i.e. sign, electric, building).
  • Phone numbers and email address?
  • Keep this worksheet handy and update as you go along.

Use any of the mapping systems online to scout the site prior to a visit.

You can learn a lot by viewing the area ahead of time. Google Earth, Maps on Apple or Android are free and may let you see the street view of a site. There are also mapping services available for free for counties and cities such as BS&A, Access Kent, and others for your specific area. They may include measuring tools to get an approximate idea of where you may place a yard sign relative to the road right-of-way (ROW) or to scale lot sizes to determine sign size and confirm parcel numbers.

Questions to ask for any sign project.

  • What is the property zoned – Commercial, Residential, Industrial, Transitional?
  • How high can the sign be to the top?
  • How far from the bottom of the sign to the ground?
  • How many square feet in size?
  • How many signs are allowed per site?
  • How far back from the public right of way on the customer’s property does the sign have to be placed?
  • What determines the size of the sign – building width, wall area, street frontage?