Detroit Proposes Signage Regulations

The City of Detroit has proposed an ordinance to update signage and advertisement regulations.

The City of Detroit today introduced an ordinance that would update the city’s signage and advertisement regulations, bringing codes up to current national standards.

If approved by the city council, the new ordinance will establish rules to prevent an over-concentration of signs and create maximum sizes for large- and small-business owners.

“We want to ensure that building owners and advertisers have modern, easier regulations for signage in Detroit,” says Arthur Jemison, the city’s chief of services and infrastructure. “With the proposed ordinance, we have a chance to promote better opportunity for building owners and avoid an over-concentration that could overwhelm our residents and visitors.”

As a next step, the city council will begin a public discussion about the ordinance. City officials will continue to collect feedback from building owners and stakeholders over the course of the discussion.

“I am very excited that this ordinance will bring long-needed order and equity to outdoor advertising on buildings in downtown Detroit,” says Scott Benson, councilman for District 3 who sponsored the ordinance. “This will be a boon to landlords and ultimately the city because of increased revenue, but perhaps as important, it will allow city officials to have more oversight to ensure that the signs don’t subtract from our attractive downtown aesthetics.”

The city’s previous sign codes banned off-premise signage, or large advertisements on building walls in the city’s central business district. The proposed ordinance would lift that ban and create regulations on where and how these signs are placed, including size restrictions and a cap on the number of licenses.

The ordinance would allow signs on only one side of a building and no more than one sign per wall. The new rules also include a first-come-first-serve system for license approvals and a five-year term limit on licenses. The proposal introduces a cap of 60 total wall advertising licenses for the central business district.

Another change is a two-tiered category system establishing size standards for different types of buildings. The first tier creates a local advertising category with smaller maximum sizes and fewer regulatory requirements to lessen the burden on buildings owned by small organizations or individuals.

The second tier creates an advertising category with larger maximum size and stricter regulations, which are more manageable by owners of larger buildings. The new categories prevent competition between different building types and property owners.

The ordinance comes after a significant increase in signs and advertising in Detroit, despite outdated regulations that made most signs illegal. At the end of 2017, the city reached a deal with building owners to remove most illegal signage in anticipation of the new ordinance.

The proposal will be referred to the planning and economic development committee early next week for discussion.