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Wall signs, freestanding signs, temporary signs and many others require an approved sign permit from Durham City-County Inspections. To be approved, the sign must meet the requirements of Article 11 of the Unified Development Ordinance.
How do I apply for a sign permit?
What should I provide with my application?
A permit application is required for all signs being requested. You may include more than one sign on the application as long as they are all at the same location. Up to six signs may be included on the same application.
Electrical signs require an additional permit before the sign permit may be issued. The electrical permit application must be completed by a North Carolina licensed electrical contractor. The name and phone number of the electrician must be included in the correct space on the sign permit application before the sign permit may be approved, if electrical connection is required.
Permit applications are available from the Inspections Department, ground floor, City Hall, 101 City Hall Plaza, Durham, NC 27701, of may be downloaded from the Inspections Department page on the City of Durham website. The Inspections Department will accept faxed permit applications at (919) 560-4484, unless a Common Signage Plan exists for the property. If a Common Signage Plan exists, the sign drawings must be in color.
Be sure to include the correct street address where the sign will be located. Incomplete addresses will hinder the permit process. Do not write in the section labeled "For Office Use Only."
Three sets of drawings (to scale or dimensioned) should be provided for each sign to be permitted. One of the drawings will be maintained on file in Inspections and the other will be returned to you. Keep your copy at the job site until a final inspection is made of the sign installation.
All freestanding signs require landscaping. The landscaping plan must be submitted at the same time as the sign permit application. Specific information regarding the landscaping requirements is contained in Article 11.6.2 A #6 of the Unified Development Ordinance.
What should the scale drawings include?
Drawings must include the dimensions of the sign structure, the dimensions of the copy area, the size and style of the lettering and the colors to be used in the sign.
Elevation drawings for all wall signs must show the location of the sign on the building. The overall dimensions of the wall must also be indicated in order to verify that the maximum sign area allowed has not been exceeded.
Suspended, projecting, and awning signs must show the distance from the walking surface to the bottom of the sign.
Freestanding signs must also show the foundation/footing details and the overall height from the ground at the base of the sign to the top of the sign.
All scale drawings must also include a plot plan if a free standing sign is involved. This plan should show the property lines, building locations, driveways, sight distance triangles, and the proposed location of the sign.
It is the responsibility of the sign owner or contractor to properly locate the sign on the property. If property lines are unclear or unknown, a survey may be required prior to the approval of the sign installation.
All required landscaping must be installed prior to the final approval of the sign installation. Failure to complete any portion of the required landscaping may result in the voiding of the sign permit and action taken by the zoning enforcement officer.
Wall sign face replacements require a sign permit. Provide the same information as is required for new sign installation. Provided no Common Signage Plan exists which covers a free standing sign, no permit is required for the replacement of the sign face in a free standing sign, unless the vertical sign support or the sign box is altered. If either of these 2 elements is altered, the free standing sign requires a sign permit, and the sign must be brought into compliance with Article 11 of the Unified Development Ordinance.
What are the requirements for signs in shopping centers, office complexes and other multi-tenant properties?
Signs installed within a multi-tenant property must comply with the specific sign criteria (Common Signage Plan) selected by the landlord or property owner. This criterion is on file with the Durham City-County Inspections Department and sets forth the specific type and placement of the signs, the letter style, size, and the colors to be used in each sign within the development. Applicants are encouraged to secure a copy of the Common Signage Plan (usually available through the leasing agent for the property) prior to development of their signs.
Logos are allowed if they are federally or state registered. The colors, size and material must comply with the common signage plan but the graphic style may be modified to accommodate the logo. To use such a logo or trademark, submit a copy of the federal or state registration along with your sign permit application.
My application is complete. What happens now?
A non-refundable permit fee will be charged for each sign requested when the permit is issued.
If your sign meets the requirements of the Unified Development Ordinance and the Common Signage Plan (if applicable), your permit will be processed in approximately 7-10 working days.
Signs for grand openings and other special sales or events are allowed as temporary signs. Temporary signs are allowed for special events only. Only one sign is allowed per special event and is permitted for a maximum of thirty days. Two temporary sign permits are allowed within a twelve month period at the same location. The maximum area allowed is thirty-two square feet. A drawing of the temporary sign which includes the dimensions of the sign and the message on the sign is required prior to issuance of the permit. If your sign meets all of the requirements, it may be approved. Temporary sign permits are processed on a walk-in basis.
It is strongly advised that no sign be fabricated until the proper permits have been issued. Anyone erecting a sign without a permit will be charged double the normal permit fee in addition to having to correct any zoning ordinance violations, including taking down the sign, if necessary. Violations of the sign ordinance may also be enforced by the City-County Zoning Enforcement Officers.
May I put my sign up now?
Yes, but don't forget to call for the required inspections.
1. Footing inspections are required for all freestanding signs prior to the pouring of any concrete.
2. Required landscaping, if any, must be completed prior to the final inspection of the sign installation.
3. Electrical inspections are required for any sign with electrical connections. Remember, only a North Carolina licensed electrician may wire an electrical sign.
4. The final sign inspection is made when the sign is erected and all other required work, such as landscaping and electrical inspections, has been completed. Make sure the permit sticker you receive is placed on the sign in a visible location. If a permit sticker is lost during the life of the sign, a new sticker must be obtained from the Inspections Department.
To request inspections, call the building inspector assigned to your area. Usually, a 24 hour response time can be expected.
When you call for an inspection, provide the correct street address of the property where the sign is located, the contractor's name, the permit number and the type of inspection desired.