• City of Chicago Cracks Down on Sign Permitting

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    In recent months, the City of Chicago has tightened its policing of non-permitted signage on small businesses.  Is it important that small business owners stay up to date with current city policies and ordinances  in order to stay compliant and avoid fines. Below is a list of frequently asked questions regarding the City's sign permitting process.

    What is the process to get a permit? 
    First, complete the online and hard copy application. Submit the hard copy application to the Department of Buildings (DOB), City Hall, Room 900. DOB will enter your application into the system and route it to Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) and, once approved, it will be routed to Zoning for review and approval. After approvals from BACP and Zoning, DOB conducts a review, issues any corrections, and ultimately issues the permit.

    What types of signs do NOT need a permit? 
    Signs stating hours of operation, address, phone number, open and closed, and burglar alarm signs do not require a permit. However, if you put a logo on any of these signs it is considered advertising and you will be required to obtain a sign permit.

    Do I need to hire a contractor? 
    You do not need to hire a contractor if there is no structural work and the sign is not in the public way

    What if my contractor tells me I don’t need a permit? 
    Please be aware that the property owner is ultimately responsible if the sign is non-compliant. If you recieve a violation, you will need to attend an Administrative Hearing.

    How much signage can I display? 
    A business is allowed a minimum of 32 square feet. Anything beyond this allowance is subject to zoning regulations based on location. Please be sure to contact the Zoning Division of the Department of Planning and Development at 312-744-5777 for more information.

    What if my sign extends over the public way?
    If any portion of your sign, sign structure or sign apparatus (such as external floodlights illuminating the sign) extends over the public way (sidewalk, street or alley), you are required to obtain a Public Way Use permit, which includes a City Council Ordinance, from the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection. For more information, please contact the Alderman’s office where your business is located, or Business Affairs and Consumer Protection at 312-74-GOBIZ.
    What if I have a large sign?

    Any sign over 100 square feet in area or placed 24 feet above ground level requires approval by the City Council in the form of a City Council Order. For information on requesting a City Council Order, please contact the Alderman’s office where your business is located for information on requesting a City Council .
    What’s the difference between a City Council Ordinance and City Council Order?

    An Ordinance and an Order are two separate requirements and obtaining one does not satisfy the other. If (1) the sign is over 100 square feet in area OR (2) is over 24 feet in height above ground level AND (3) if any portion of the sign, sign structure or sign apparatus is over the public way, then both a City Council Order and a City Council Ordinance is required.
    What does a sign permit cost?
    Zoning review fee for an on premise sign: $200.00.
    Building department review fees: (in addition to above fee)
    • 0-49 sq.ft. sign: $50.00
    • 50-99 sq.ft. sign: $100.00
    • 100-199 sq.ft. sign: $200.00
    • 200-499 sq.ft sign: $500.00
    • over 500 sq. ft. sign: $1000.00

    Can I install a sign before the permit is issued? 
    No, this violates the Code meant for the protection of the public and for the protection of the business owner. The sign size may not be allowed under the building, zoning or public way provisions of the Code. The City does not want business owners to invest money on signs that may need to be removed. 
    What do I do if I receive a violation? 
    You would receive a notice to appear at an Administrative Hearing. Pursuant to Illinois law, a corporation (including an LLC or an S Corp) requires representation by an attorney. For business signs, compliance is a defense at Administrative Hearings. If you receive a violation, simply obtain a sign permit, bring it to your hearing and you will avoid paying a fine. 
    What if I don’t appear in court? 
    You could be in default and subject to fines.
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