Important Facts About Detroit’s Sign Policies & Ordinances

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You’ve been brainstorming ways to get your message out to customers—from promoting an upcoming event to advertising a monster sale to simply saying “Hey, we’re here, drop by.” Obviously, signs are one way to say what you want to say without getting hoarse from yelling your news. And you’re thinking signs seem like a good choice for your business. However, you know Detroit won’t simply let businesses advertise whatever, wherever. So you want to boost your knowledge of the city’s do’s and don’ts regarding signage.

Maybe you remember the episode from a few years ago…Requiring compliance with Detroit’s existing policies for building signage

And, maybe sticking out in your mind are those tickets that rose as high as $1,500, according to the Detroit Free Press. With that in mind, you figure you should research before you get your signs rolling. That way, you hope to stay on the right side of the law, saving yourself headaches and perhaps money, too.

To do or not to do, that is the question

Let’s start with some things you may need to attend to when it comes to signage. Then we’ll follow the do’s with some don’ts.

Do – determine if you need to post a sign in your construction zone

Check out Ordinance No. 35-17. It reads in part: “A properly posted development notification sign is required for any construction site that is at least 10,000 square feet in area and that otherwise requires a building permit.” Of course, imagine how you’d feel if you lived in the area and wanted to know what was going on in the nearby lot.

Do – get proper permissions for inflatables

Thinking balloons would be just the thing to attract attention? Before you dive in, make sure you’re in the clear, and you know what’s allowed. Check out Ordinance No. 38-14. Part of it says,

Additionally, rules may apply to how long they can be there, where they’re placed, and how many permits you can get annually.

Digging into some “don’ts”

Let’s explore a few things you may need to steer clear of doing when it comes to signs.

Don’t – cover up anything you aren’t allowed to cover up

Here, we admonish you not to assume that you can tack up a sign wherever you deem appropriate. Be sure you research and understand if there’s anything you’re not allowed to cover over.

For this concept, we turn to Ordinance No. 38-14 which reads in part: A business sign (including an identification sign) shall not cover or conceal architectural features of a building including, but not limited to, windows, arches, sills, moldings, cornices, and transoms”.

Don’t – distract from traffic signals with your lighted signs

Obviously, traffic signals have important work to do, keeping traffic flowing and preventing accidents. Certainly, you don’t want your sign impeding this work. In this vein, check out a further statement of Ordinance No. 38-14, “No sign shall be illuminated in a manner that interferes with the effectiveness of an official traffic sign, traffic signal or traffic control device.”

Don’t – run through rotating images too quickly

If you’re a driver you may be able to relate to seeing an electronic message that flashed by just a bit too fast. You really wanted to read it next time it came up in the rotation. But the streetlight you were waiting for turned green before you got another chance. You’re driving away with the other cars and perhaps straining to see the message as you take off. Distracting!

Perhaps protecting its motorists is what Motor City has in mind with this statement, again from Ordinance No. 38-14 “Messages on an electronic message board may be a continuous scroll or may be intermittently changing static messages. Where messages are intermittently changing
and static, then each message must be displayed for a minimum of eight (8) seconds before changing.”

Don’t – let your illuminated signs be a nuisance to people who live nearby

This one relates to two statements of Ordinance No. 38-14. First, “…flashing signs are permitted only where farther than one hundred (100) feet from existing developed residential property…” Additionally, “Illuminated signs shall be arranged to reflect light away from residential structures.”

Really, take a moment to reflect on this one. If you lived nearby a business with a flashing sign that was lit up at night, might you find it irritating? Likely, you can visualize flashes of red (or any color) illuminating the sides of your window shade as you’re trying to sleep at night. If you wouldn’t like it, you can see why residents who live near your business sign wouldn’t like it too close either.

Check before you do

It’s important to realize that this is a sampling of ordinances that may apply. Of course, you need to check what applies to your particular situation. Be sure you’re clear before you go ahead. Because it would likely be more pleasant to figure out something is a no-go before you spend time, work, and money on it as opposed to after. In short, let’s say that what you need to know about Detroit’s sign policies and ordinances is check before you do.

When it comes time to get your outdoor sign up and off the ground (figuratively speaking), be sure you or your contractor get any sign permits you need.  Additionally, check out what requirements apply if it’s a contractor getting the permit.

A sign for every occasion

Now, that you’ve started thinking about Detroit’s sign policies and ordinances, be sure you get “in the know” about each particular situation you’re considering. Maybe you’re getting the word out about your business event or company party. Or you’re letting the community know how many years you’ve been in business. Or perhaps it’s time to announce your grand opening. Whatever it is you’re doing, research the requirements adequately and head over to see how we can serve your sign needs.

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