Sign Code and Sign Permits

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​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Sign Regulat​ions

The sign regulations of this Code are intended to ensure that Signs are located, designed, sized, constructed, installed, and maintained in a way that protects and promotes safety, health, aesthetics, and the public welfare while allowing adequate communication.​ ​​

Sign permits are submitted online using the City's new online permitting system STR​EAM​ (stream.a2gov.org). 

For general questions about​ signs contact Chris Cheng at [email protected]​​

Temporar​​y Signs

The City of Ann Arbor Sign Code was updated and approved in December 2020.  Many residents have recently inquired about temporary signs allowed in their neighborhood.   Please refer to Table 5.24-6: Temporary Signs of the Unified Development Code​ to determine the size, number, location and setbacks of temporary freestanding and wall signs allowed in zoning districts.  ​Remember, a temporary sign is intended for a limited period of display that is not permanently anchored to the ground or building.  ​

Calculating Sign Are

Sign Area is the area of a rectangle or rectangles enclosing the extreme limits of writing, representation, emblem, or any figure of similar character on a sign, regardless of opacity of missing space within the rectangle or rectangles.

Webpage Calculating Sign Area Graphic.pngSee Figure 24-1 Calculation Area of Freestanding Signs (right)  

    Changeable Copy & Electronic Message Signs

    • Changeable Copy may not exceed 50% of the total Sign Area of a Sign.
    • An Electronic Message Sign may only be included as a component of a larger Sign and may not exceed 25% of the total Sign Area of the Sign.
    • Changeable Copy and Electronic Message Signs shall not change more than once per minute.

    Sign Illumination 


    • A Permanent Sign may be illuminated by internal or external Light Sources. A Temporary Sign shall not illuminated​
    • A Light Source that illuminates a Sign shall have a constant color and intensity except to dim or brighten in response to changes in ambient light as permitted in this Code. 
    • Glare must be prevented through the use of fully shielded fixtures, shields, baffles, mounting height, appropriate luminosity, aiming angle, and placement of a Light Source​
    • Sign illumination shall not project light that exceeds 0.1 foot candles above the ambient light at a Lot Line bordering a Residential Zoning District.
    • An external Light Source illuminating an exterior Sign shall be mounted above the Sign, shall be shielded so that the Light Source is not directly visible from any point on or above a horizontal plane extending from the Light Source and shall not be aimed or directed toward a residential Building on another Lot or toward a Public Right-of-Way.

    Electronic Message Sign Illumination

    • An Electronic Message Sign shall not emit more than 5,000 Nits in full daylight and 100 Nits at night
    • An Electronic Message Sign shall have a functioning ambient light monitor and automatic dimming equipment
    • When an Electronic Message Sign changes, the change shall be instantaneous, without any additional effect, such as fade, blinking, or dissolve.​​

    Temporary Signs

    • ​A Temporary Wall Sign may be displayed for up to 28 days in a calendar year and shall not be displayed for more than 14 continuous days.​

    • A Temporary Freestanding Sign may be displayed for up to 65 continuous days, with at least a 30-day gap between any display period.​

    Temporary Sign Exceptions

    • When all or a portion of a Building or Lot is listed or advertised for sale or lease, the maximum display period for Temporary Signs on that Building or Lot shall be the duration that the Building, Lot, or portion thereof, is listed or advertised for sale or lease.

    • One nonilluminated Temporary Freestanding Sign up to 6 square feet in Sign Area is permitted on a Lot at any time with no limitation on display period.​

    Prohibited Signs

    • Sign​s that move, pulse, scroll, blink, flash, sparkle, or give the appearance thereof, other than Flags.
    • Exterior Pennants, spinners, inflatables, feather flags, and streamers.
    • Signs that are structurally or electrically unsafe.
    • Signs placed on a tree or utility pole or structure.
    • Signs on a motor vehicle or trailer that is parked on a Premises so as to be visible from a Public Right-of-Way, outside of the hours that any Business on the Premises is open to the public, and for the primary purpose of advertising.
    • Rope lights, string lights or similar lighting attached to, surrounding or otherwise drawing attention to a Sign.
    • Signs erected on or projecting into a Public Right-of-Way, except for Signs expressly permitted in a Public Right-of-Way by this Code. The City may remove and destroy or otherwise dispose of, without notice to any Person, any Sign erected on a Public Right-of-Way in violation of this Code.
    • Signs that imitate a traffic control device.
    • Signs that emit smoke, visible vapor, particulate matter, sound, or odor.
    • Sign Structures that no longer contain a Sign.
    • Signs with a Sign Area over 200 square feet.​