Permitting Requirements for New Billboards
Posted by Louis Greenebaum
Permitting & Installation Requirements for New Billboards in the City of Chicago
Obtaining a permit for an advertising billboard, sometimes referred to as an “Off-Premises” sign, can be a challenging process due to a myriad of zoning code regulations.
Chicago Zoning Code Billboard Restrictions1 Include:
- Billboards are prohibited in residential zoning districts.
- Billboards are prohibited on designated Pedestrian Streets (P-Streets).2
- Freestanding (i.e., pylon sign) billboards are prohibited in both downtown mixed-use and downtown core zoning districts.
- Billboards are prohibited within 100 feet of any residential zoning district.
- Billboards larger than 100 sq/ft3 are prohibited within 250 feet of any residential zoning district.
- Dynamic image display billboards are prohibited within 125 feet of any residential district.
- Billboards larger than 100 sq/ft are prohibited within 100 feet of any residential building located within in a downtown zoning district.
- Billboards are prohibited within 100 feet of a waterway (e.g., the Chicago River).
- Billboards near public parks: depending upon the acreage of a public park, there is a distance requirement for billboards that are legible from the specific park.
- Billboards are prohibited within the boundaries of the Lake Michigan and Chicago Lakefront Protection District
- Billboards are prohibited within 500 feet of the following streets:
- Lake Shore Drive
- Expressways & Toll Roads
- Michigan Avenue between Oak Street & Roosevelt Road
Note: Billboards that are visible from the above streets but are located more than 500 feet from the public way, must also be 500 feet away from all other billboards placed on the same side of the street.
- Billboards are prohibited from any lot with street frontage located on a primary boulevard.
- In business and commercial zoning districts, billboards are prohibited from being within 300 feet of any other billboard located/placed on the same side of the street.
- In downtown and manufacturing zoning districts, billboards are prohibited from being within 150 feet of any other billboard located/placed on the same side of the street.
- Billboards cannot utilize flashing or video display elements.
- Billboards are prohibited within:
- The Oak Street Corridor Special Sign District
- The State Street/Wabash Avenue Corridor Special Sign District
- The Chicago River Corridor Special Sign District
Do Billboard Permit Approvals Require City Council Involvement?
Any sign whose face is either greater than 100 sq/ft in area or stands >24 feet above grade requires a sign order. Introduced to the City Council by the local Alderman, sign orders are routed through the Chicago City Council Committee on Zoning, Landmarks, and Building Standards and require a public hearing be held for all billboard applications. Neighbors of the proposed billboard location are notified of the hearing via certified mail and allowed to express any concerns.
Can Permits be Renewed for Previously Existing Billboards?
If the sign is deemed an "abandoned outdoor sign structure,” the permit is not eligible for renewal. A sign is considered an “abandoned outdoor sign structure” if it meets any of the following criteria:
- There has not been new copy (messaging), or there has been abandoned sign copy for at least six months.
- The inspection fee was never paid or is at least six months past due.
- The permit number for the sign has not been properly displayed in the last six months.
What is the Penalty for an Unpermitted Billboard?
Per the Chicago Building Code, a billboard lacking the requisite permit will fetch a minimum daily fine of $7,500.00. Further, the disgorgement of profits, or the entire revenue received from the billboard by either the sign owner or the property owner, shall be remitted to the City of Chicago.
Nonrefundable zoning review, billboard size specific, and annual inspection fees apply as well for all new billboard permits.
To learn more or apply for a new billboard permit, contact the experts at Burnham Nationwide. We look forward to being of service.
Contact Louie Greenebaum with any questions or to get the permitting process started.
1These restrictions apply to new sign permit applications only, not existing, lawfully permitted signs.
2Pedestrian Street is a special zoning classification intended to preserve existing pedestrian-oriented character and attract development by imposing constraints that disallow curb cuts, drive-throughs, and other auto-oriented.
3Area size of the sign face.