How to Get a Sign Permit

The Snowed Inn Sign by Great Big Graphics

If you're a business owner and you want to put up business signs, one of the first things you'll need to do is get a sign permit. This can be a lot to chew on, but don't worry, because we're here to help!

In this article, we'll walk you through everything you need to know about getting a sign permit for your business. We'll cover everything, from reasons you need sign permits to the types of permits available to the application process itself.

Understand Why You Need a Sign Permit

As a business owner, you’re in charge of making sure your business signage meets all the sign regulations. Once you have met the requirements – which, in the end, is going to be a few bucks, a few measurements, and a few pieces of paper – you’ll be able to show off your quality sign for your customers to enjoy!

The Law Says So

Have you ever wondered why businesses need to obtain sign permits? Well, it's the law! Business owners in most towns are required to have a permit before installing any type of signage on their property.

A sign permit not only ensures your business complies with local ordinances and regulations, it also helps to ensure your official sign is safe and compliant with building code requirements. You never know when you might have to provide paperwork that can be used in the rare event of an insurance claim or other legal issues.

So yes, getting authorization may take a little time away from chatting with customers – laughing and joking and telling them about your product – but it is essential for protecting your business from potential government fines or other legal issues.

To Get Your Message Out There

Palmer Lane Maple Outdoor Sign by Great Big Graphics

A sign is one of the most important marketing tools for any business because it gets the show on the road, literally! It is the first thing potential customers will see when they drive or walk by, or when they are scrolling through photos online, and it communicates what your business is all about. A well-designed sign builds brand awareness, attracts new customers, and boosts sales.

In addition, a sign can be a cost-effective way to advertise your business. When compared to other marketing methods, such as print or television advertising, a sign can provide a higher return on investment. For all of these reasons, it is essential to invest in a quality sign, and acquire the appropriate sign permits.

When Do You Need a Permit?

Yes, you need a new permit when you have a new sign, but it is important to note that you also need a new permit if you want to take a sign down and put a replacement up. You need to treat that situation as a new sign and get a new permit for it.

Sign permits are always displayed during the appeal window, which is the time between the permit being issued and the sign being mounted. Appeal windows can run anywhere from seven to 30 days, and the signs are not allowed to be mounted during that time in order to allow people to appeal the permit and try to get it overturned. Luckily, anyone appealing your sign would be a rare case, but you do have to wait through the appeal window.

Apply for a Zoning Review

Applying for a zoning review of your signage plans is the first step you should take when you need a sign permit. You can research the zoning laws by finding all the information you need online or visiting your local zoning district.

Be sure to include all the necessary information and supporting documents. Once you submit the application, it will be reviewed by the zoning board. If they approve your request, you will be able to proceed with getting your sign permit.

If you have any questions about the process, be sure to ask for help from the zoning department. They can provide you with guidance and support so that you can get ready to apply for your sign permit as quickly and easily as possible. Once you know what the law requires, you can begin filling out the application.

All permitting happens on the local level. There is no state permitting process with occasional exceptions for statewide sign laws, like the anti-billboard law in Vermont. These are state rules that must be followed and would take precedence over local laws. If you're concerned about keeping in line with the state rules, you can contact someone at the Vermont Agency of Transportation (AOT) to go over your plan and make sure it complies, but you don't have to fill anything out or send money to the state.

Research the Requirements in Your Region

Lamoille View Apartments Sign by Great Big Graphics

Search online to find the right town office website and find the documents that you will need to submit. Different types of signage will require different permits. For instance, an illuminated sign will require more paperwork for the application than a simple façade sign.

Make sure you know what type of sign you need before applying for a permit through your city departments. For example, you might be applying for wall-mount signs, freestanding signs or projecting signs.

In most Vermont towns, the sign regulations are contained without the town zoning regulations, which is often a 300-page scanned document and often not easy to navigate. It's usually easiest to call your local zoning department, give them your business address, and ask them what's legal in your area.

Items Your Town May Require You to Submit:

  • A completed application form
  • Payment for the permit fee
  • Site plan, sketch, or plot plan
  • Setbacks from property lines
  • Any other required documents that your regulations dictate

As a business owner, you know signage is an important part of your business. Not only does it help customers find your business, but it also helps to brand your business and make it recognizable. So drink an extra cup of coffee or tea, or do some jumping jacks – whatever you need to do to get focused and organized – and get that permit for your business.

The process can vary depending on the town in which your business is located. In some cases, you may need to submit your sign permit application along with proposed sign designs, construction drawings, and/or engineering plans.

Also, you may need to submit a site plan or plot plan showing where the proposed sign will be located. Make sure to check with your local zoning office to find out what the requirements are in your area.

Taking the time to do proper research up front will save you time and money in the long run. It's important to have all of the necessary documentation when you apply for a sign permit, so that you can avoid delays or have to resubmit your application. By taking care of all of the details ahead of time, you can have a smooth time getting approved so you can return to running your business and serving your customers.

Expect to Supply These With Your Permit Application:

  • Your name and business name
  • Property owner contact information
  • Sign structure, including height, width and depth

Pay a Fee

Galaxy Bookshop Street Hanging Sign by Great Big Graphics

Some offices may require you to submit an application fee along with your paperwork. Typical fees cost anywhere from $15 to $200, but will vary depending on your location and type of sign.

Use the Internet as Well as the Mail

The easiest way to get the right documents and do all of the research you will want to do is most likely going to be through your computer or smart device. However, it is important to note that most government offices will require that you print, sign, and mail physical documents into their office.

Do You Need a Special Type of Permit

Electrical Signs

You can bet on your region requiring electrical signs to have two permits to be legally installed. Again, check your local office, because electrical sign permits are a special case since they require everything it takes to acquire a typical sign permit, plus an electrical permit. The first permit is obtained from the local zoning department, while the second is from the online electrical sign permit website.

If you are unsure of which permits you need, you can always ask a professional who will be able to guide you through the process. Make a point to do a complete search for the documents you need and look online for the right information. It may seem as though there’s a lot to learn, but rest assured your local government is a great resource to use so you don't miss a step.

If it turns out at the last minute you need another document, the powers that be are more than likely willing to work with you so you can get it in on time and put your sign up without a fine.

Building Permits

In some cases, depending on how much construction is going into your sign, you may also be required to obtain a building permit in addition to a sign permit. However, the process is generally similar, so following the guidelines should help you obtain the necessary permits without any problem.

Fill Out and Submit the Application

Once you have the correct paperwork and know all the requirements, you can complete the application. The process can vary depending on your location, but in general, you'll need to fill out paperwork and submit it to the town zoning department.

Apply As Soon As You Can

Getting a sign permit as soon as possible is a high priority for many reasons. It will allow you to start marketing and advertising your business sooner. A well-placed sign can attract potential customers' attention and help generate interest in your products or services.

If you have everything you need to fill out an application, the entire process of researching, filling out, then mailing the application should only take between one and three hours. Again, the time it takes will depend on how knowledgeable you are going into the process. However, once the permit application has left your hands the process generally takes three to eight weeks, and may involve attending Development Review Board (DRB) meetings.

You may be like a lot of owners who need a sign for when they are getting ready to open their doors for that exciting first time. Don't make the mistake of waiting until the last minute to get your sign permit or you could risk a business grand opening without any signage!

Wait for the Sign Permit to be Approved

You can expect your permit to be approved within a few weeks. Be patient and wait for the official approval before putting up your sign or you risk violating the sign laws and having to address that issue, potentially by paying a fine, having to remove your sign, re-apply, and then wait again for approval.

Some offices may require you to submit additional information or paperwork before your permit can be approved. Be sure to follow up if you haven't heard anything after two or three weeks so you can supply any additional information to complete the process. You can ask the employees when you are submitting your paperwork how long you can expect to wait, because every government office and application is different, and then you will know when to follow up. You can even set a notification on your smart device reminding you to contact them if you haven’t heard from them.

Install Your Sign According to the Approved Plans

Stowe Sandwich Company Sign by Great Big Graphics

Congratulations! Once your application has been reviewed and approved, you'll be able to proceed with installing your business sign according to the approved plans. If you deviate from the plans, you could be in violation of your permit and risk having to remove the sign or make changes, so match your sign exactly to the approved paperwork.

Now You’re Ready to Get Your Quality Sign

Lamoille Valley Bike Tours by Great Big Graphics

By following the steps outlined in this blog post, you can ensure you have all the information you need to get your permit approved quickly and easily! And now that you know how to get a permit, take a look at some of the custom engraved signs we’ve done for our clients.

Leave It to the Pros

If it's a simple process and won't take up too much of your time, getting your own permit may be worth doing yourself. However, if it's complicated or time-consuming, you may want to hire someone who handles the paperwork for you, like we do at Great Big Graphics.

Not following the law, especially as a business owner, can seriously impact your company's success, so you’ll want to have all of your business permits in order, including for any signage. 

We know you're eager to get started with your sign, and we can't wait to work with you! Our team has decades of experience in this industry.

With cutting-edge technology, our clients will have their businesses stand out from competitors. We would love to help you create the perfect signage for your business. Give us a call today!