Handling a Variance in Signage Zoning Laws
Signs can have a dramatic impact on your business’s on-site success, whether it leads to a direct boost in sales or simply helps customers find you. So you know that you need a sign for your business. And maybe you’ve even worked with a sign company to design and fabricate sign, but things get a bit tricky when it comes to actually installing it. But your municipality probably has some laws and regulations guiding the use of signage. Sometimes these guidelines limit impair the ability of a particular location to succeed. But municipalities also usually provide something called variances (sometimes also known as Special Exception process) to work around these limitations. Today, we’re going to talk about the three items you need to highlight when navigating a signage zoning laws and applying for a variance.
What is a Variance?
A variance is essentially when your local government accepts documentation that excepts your project from abiding by zoning ordinances. Each municipality has their own zoning laws, so it’s important to work with an experienced sign company to navigate these complexities.
How To Gain a Variance
First and foremost, it’s important to understand that signs are a form of speech protected by the 1st Amendment. While there can be limitations on time and place, the limitations must be justified and reasonable. Sign experts Charles R. Taylor, Thomas A. Claus, and Susan L. Claus, write that “a sign ordinance is regulating speech, not activity or use.” So when navigating a variance, highlighting that your sign is a form of free speech is essential to the argument.
No only is it important that your customers understand your brand through your sign, but they also have to navigate to your location safely. Proper visibility, in terms of size, placement, decoration, and obstructions, are keys to providing adequate notice for safety. A critical element to gaining a sign code variance or special exception includes clearly determining how the site signage promotes public safety.
Be sure to analyze all the aspects of your branding in terms that are important to the local government. Local governments appreciate the opportunity to improve public safety and many are also concerned with the success of their commercial properties. The success of your business benefits the whole community, so highlighting the ways that your site and its signage directly benefits the community will also help you gain a variance.
To navigate zoning laws, businesses should work with an experienced sign company who knows not only how to design, manufacture and install a sign that speaks to the heart of your brand, but also how to maximize the sign’s placement and design in navigating permitting and variances. In applying for a variance, businesses should highlight their 1st amendment rights, point out that proper signage makes navigating to the location more safe, and that the overall success of the location benefits the community.