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Adaptive Display's Digital Signage Blog

LED Signage Permit Challenges and Guidelines

Posted by Chad Bogan on Mon, Jan 19, 2015

LED signage is becoming common as businesses replace their traditional copy boards, and billboards companies make a switch to digital billboards. 

A permit is needed if you decide to install, alter, or repair a digital signage for your business. 

At the same time, technology continues to grow. However, some state and local regulations don't. Some suburbs and cities also have sign ordinances that restrict size, location and brightness of signs that you can use.  This is the reason why determining whether a digital signage permit is permissible or not becomes a challenge for manufacturers, dealers and users. 

Signage Permit Challenges

1. No standard name 

LED sign is also called as LED Displays, LED Signs, LED Message Centers, LED Reader Boards, Electronic Message Centers, Electronic Reader Boards, Digital Reader Boards, etc. With this variety of names and combinations, searching through the city code (even when it’s available online) also brings additional challenge.


2. Outdated sign codes 

At the time when sign codes were written, LED sign haven't existed yet. Most regulations depend solely on different interpretations on LED sign codes based on existing codes. It can be "changeable letter boards," "flashing signs," or "lighted sign." Good thing, many local governments are already revising the codes in order to include specifics on LED signage.


3. Distinction factor 

Another factor that brings challenge to signage permit is the difference between billboards (Off-Site Advertising) and regular business signage (On-Site Advertising). The code for each one differs greatly in most cities and counties.


Major Steps in LED Sign Permit Research 

You can get past these challenges if you spend some time doing your homework, connecting with the right people and working with the best signage dealers. You also have to check regulations and secure approval to avoid costly mistake before you get the sign designed and installed. 

1. Know your zoning district 

Every city or country has Zoning Districts for their signage rules. Find out your Zoning District by calling your local office. You can also check the City/County website and look for a "Zoning Map." Information is usually available in the Planning, Zoning, or Land Use areas of the website. Also go a Google search for "city name" zoning map. 

Zoning regulations established the standards for each zoning district. Signage on business districts are usually allowed, while signage on residential places is not permitted. However, schools, churches or charitable organizations are permitted. 


2. Determine your property line locations and measurements 

It is important to establish where your lot lines are located to verify that your sign adheres with the zoning laws.  These lines determine where you can legally place desired items. 

Most sign codes base the allowable size of the sign on the length of the property line "street frontage." There should also be a certain setback from the property line for installation. 

Check if you already have this survey or "plat map" measurements. If not, you can acquire a plat map from the City Assessor's division office or county property tax office. These offices also have a website with mapping tools so you can search a property address with links to an online version of the "plat map."


3. Review your sign code 

Sign codes are used to regulate most permanent signs, billboards, community bulletin boards, and temporary signs. 

Sign regulations are different in various zones. Usually these sign codes describes the type, size, and of quantity signs are allowed in each zone; give specific sign rules for each zone; and describe where signs can be placed, etc. 

Most cities and counties post sign codes online. Some uses websites such as or 

In reading the sign codes, remember these things:


  • Sign code is usually stated in the Zoning, Planning, Development, or the Land Use section of the main city code.
  • Codes in electronic format can be searched online.
  • Sign code presents the overall code. It is followed by the prohibited signs, and then specific restrictions for each Zoning District. Save time by reading the prohibited section first.
  • Check the "Definitions" section of the code. For instance, the code states that "flashing signs are prohibited," check if it refers to LED signs. But if not, the sign code may have a separate definition for LED signs.

1. Verify the information 

Check all information you have. Call your local community office and speak with the city planner. Tell them about the permissibility of an LED sign on your property. 

Remember to politely ask the planner about the code reference of the restrictions they mentioned. 

Then verify the information you received. If the city planner isn't too familiar with the sign code, ask to speak to someone who is more knowledgeable.





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