- On April 22, 2020
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When installing an outdoor digital sign, it is important to understand what obstacles you may run into when obtaining a permit. A thorough initial code check can save you valuable project time and costs if you can determine special permitting needs in advance. You may find the ordinance for the municipality where the sign will be located has specific restrictions for digital signage beyond what they have for other types of signs.
In many cases, obtaining a permit for a digital sign may require special permitting (i.e.: a variance, special use permit, conditional use permit, text amendment, or rezoning). While most municipalities are lenient on what digital solutions they allow, many of them need these more detailed applications that result in a longer approval process.
There are a lot of things to look out for in sign code restrictions for digital signs, which are often classified as electronic message centers (EMC), reader boards, or electronic changeable copy signs.
Some sign codes have regulations that restrict the minimum and/or maximum brightness levels of various digital sign classifications. For example, a sign code may state that an EMC cannot be brighter than 3,000 nits. Fortunately, the lighting settings for digital signs can often be adjusted to meet these restrictions. However, if there is a specific reason for a sign to be brighter than what is allowed, approval can often be obtained with justification through a special permitting process.
Some sign codes have regulations that set the amount of time an EMC is to remain static. For example, a sign code may state that the content on an EMC has to be static for 6 seconds minimum, only allowing any changes on the display to happen every 6 seconds. This also can usually be altered easily in the sign settings or software programming. However, a special approval may be required if an exception is needed for sign display needs based on project scope.
Some sign codes have regulations regarding the movement in a display. For example, a sign code may state that an EMC cannot include any video, flashing lights or “Vegas style” features. If you plan to include video or other movement in your sign that is going to be placed outdoors or in a window viewable to the street, it may be restricted or require special permitting approval.
Some sign codes do not allow displays to be 100% digital. For example, it may state that the EMC portion of a sign cannot exceed 50% of the total sign face. In cases like this, a special use permit or variance can often be obtained if the need for 100% digital can be justified and shown not to be a determent to surrounding properties, and in line with the development plan. With so many variables and nuances in each municipality ordinance, it is imperative that you have a digital signage partner experienced working through these potential permitting pitfalls.