Electric Sign Authority

Gen Ed in Elec. Signs 101 +

What You Should Know Before Buying a Sign

Is your sign company:

  • Licensed and insured in the state you want the work done?
  • A full service sign shop?
  • Using the highest quality products with the longest manufacturer warranty?
  • Manufacturing the product to engineered sign standards?
  • Do they have a large number of satisfied clients who would give a referral or a testimonial?
  • Expert in interpreting sign ordinance and code compliance?
  • Installers licensed electrical journeymen & welders?
  • Contractors license current (Sign and/or Awning Contractor)?
    Liability insurance -minimum $1m umbrella?
  • Workman’s Comp Insurance?
  • UL Rated shop (Underwriters Laboratory certification)?
  • Doing the install and giving a warranty on the full project for a minimum of one year?
  • Warranty = Parts & Labor?
  • Rated with the BBB (Better Business Bureau)?
  • Involved in any local or national associations involving signs and/or awnings?
  • Fabricating all stages of the project in-house or do they sub work out?
  • Have they been in business long enough to have established good credit with vendors etc?


  • Are they licensed and insured to work on your building?
  • Get a conditional lien release from all subs before final payment?

—–Do your homework on sign brokers.


Will Efforts at Garden City Meetings Pay Off?

pen_rudolph_citycouncilmeetingPerhaps all of our time spent in Council Chambers at Garden City  has not been in vain. Councilman Moser actually took the time to go on Boise’s website and compare the proposed G.C. draft to Boise’s sign code. He had a list of items in the draft that he addressed. The other Council members agreed that some items needed to be changed. They agreed to discuss and take a vote on the recommendations after someone puts together a comparison for them. The Northwest Sign Council has agreed to help them with this. How many times have we submitted a comparrison to them in different forms? Apparently they’ve never taken any of them seriously. Perhaps because Jenna, the City Planner, kept saying that the draft had very minimal differences compared to Boise’s sign code. It took one of their own along with James Carpentier, the consultant that the Northwest Sign Council hired, to get their attention. Below is a list of items that they will debate and vote on in the next few weeks: 

  1. Distinctive materials signs vs. non-distinctive – too much disparity for non-distinctive sign size as compared to Boise. Distinctive is too subjective. Who decides what is “distinctive” ?
  2. Promotional signs – 30 days per calendar year too short. Boise allows 3 x 30 days per year
  3. NWSC recommendation to treat internally or externally illuminated sign the same
  4. NWSC recommendation of NITS for Electronic Message Centers (EMC)
  5. NWSC recommendation to increase area of EMC allowed from 30% to 50% of sign
  6. NWSC recommendation not to use property frontage to determine the size of sign allowed, but give all the same size
  7. MWSC suggestion – use linear ft. measure for wall sign allowance. Some members discussed using wall area
  8. Non-Conforming Signs – Discuss a different trigger to be used such as when assessed value of property increases by 70% then non-conforming signs have to be brought into conformance. Open for suggestions but feels like 25% change to all things they listed in draft was too vague and too harsh
  9. All tenants in a building or on a parcel shall be treated equally. If one business has to come into conformance with their sign, all in the business park or center should have to do the same
  10. Max height of signs at 12’ or 14’ with architectural detail at top is too restrictive and dramatic of a change  

This last item was suggested by the Mayor. The City Attorney stated that the Mayor would not be allowed to vote because this is an ordinance and ordinances must be made law by the Council. There are four Council members. 

Jeff Souza doesn’t like signs in general and was very vocalized his opinion that Garden City does not have to be like or look like Boise or Meridian. Souza stated that promo signs are abusive. He likes the fact that EMC’s will help to rid the town of promotional signs. He brought up an example of McDonalds in Hailey, ID (which, for you out-of-towners, is near the Sun Valley Resort) and how they don’t have a big sign, but they do a booming business. Thankfully Councilman Mozer said that Garden City is not and never will be like Hailey,  Vail, CO. or any other resort town. Mozer said that they had gone down that road before and that it’s not going to work. 

Of the two women on the council, Higgins and Beaumont, Beaumont was more vocal last night. She said she doesn’t believe that businesses will not lease or purchase in G.C. because of a restrictive sign code. When she was on the Real Estate Board for Albertson’s some years ago, they never once considered a city’s sign code in their assessment of whether a parcel was where they wanted to build a store. She did say she would be open to debate some of the above issues, but doesn’t agree that all of them need to be changed. She still believes in working towards what the public discussed and said they wanted to see realized with the Comprehensive Plan that was adopted which is “Ammend the sign code to limit number and size of signs and promotional signs.” She said Council has to answer to residents and businesses alike. 

Higgins suggested that while they were going to look at Boise’s sign code for comparison that they should also look at Eagle’s. Moser shot that down immediately stating that G.C. has many more years of history than Eagle so, yes, it doesn’t look as pretty as Eagle when you drive thru, but Eagle has a serious problem with business vacancies. He obviously agrees that their problem is due, in part, to their ultra restrictive sign code. 

 More issues  need to be addressed in the draft than listed above, but this could be a pretty big step in the right direction. Garden City will have trouble with those items that don’t get amended before the draft is passed and ratified. They’ll probably have to find out the hard way on some items, but hopefully progress will be made on the above at the next meeting – Monday – November 6, 2010 – 6PM – Garden City Hall – City Council Chambers.

Public Hearing Scheduled for Garden City Sign Ordinance

Garden City has scheduled a public hearing on Wednesday, March 17th, 2010, at 6:30 P.M. at Garden City Hall to hear public opinion on the latest draft of the sign code. Please mark your calendars and plan on attending so you can speak out.

Please see an article I wrote after attending the last work session with P&Z regarding what, in my opinion, still needs work.

Many studies have proven how effective signs have been for a business’ bottom line. They have also proven that reducing the size of signs has a direct, adverse effect on the bottom line. Case in point in Burger King and McDonalds studies in this web article. Signs’ Values Can Be Calculated | SignWeb | signweb.com

Here is the website for Garden City. You can check periodically to see if the new draft has been uploaded. Scroll to the bottom of the home page.

Garden City, Idaho

Please forward this to anyone you may know with a business or property owners in Garden City. We need everyone to attend!

Garden City Sign Code-Planning & Zoning Meeting 2-17-10

Small victories were won tonight at the P&Z workshop with regard to the proposed sign code, but there are still more battles ahead. Tonight’s meeting was a workshop for the City Planner and Planning and Zoning. Here is a synopsis of what transpired and what I heard P&Z will recommend to the City Council. I am only highlighting changes from the last draft that was proposed. (If you would like a copy of the last draft, please feel free to contact me or leave a comment and I will see that you get one.)

Definition of Sign Height – To be measured from lowest adjacent grade to highest point of sign structure. This will help out where signs are below the grade of the road but not if you have your sign on a burm or hill.

Sign Districts- Allowance for presenting a “Master Sign Plan” to the Design Review Committee has been added. If you make your case it could result in less or more stringent sign criteria than identified in a specific sign district. Too subjective, but at least there is a provision to persuade the Committee. (More about sign districts below.)

Exempt Signs (no permit required)- Flags have been added to this with the stipulation that they are not more than 40 sq ft per parcel.

Wall sign or freestanding sign (not both) – P&Z is not supporting this. However they do want to limit the size and height of free-standing and wall signs.

Adaptive Signs (Electronic Message Centers) – Recommending 10 second static message and must be minimum of 300′ from any other EMC. 300′ from nearest existing EMC is prejudicial and a real problem. Some of the Committee members recognized this, but others felt like this was the only way to control the number of EMC’s.

Billboards – Cap number allowed in city at existing number. May be relocated by Design Review Committee approval, primarily in sign district #5. Adaptable (EMC’s) not allowed.

Directional Signs – Allowed off-premise and on premise. 8 sq. ft. maximum. One per 300′ and must be within 300′ of property directing towards. The 300′ restriction in both instances will still be a problem for many G.C. businesses that are off the beatin’ path.

Projecting Signs – Can swap out in exchange for wall sign. 8′ minimum height above sidewalk and projection restrictions apply. Not a very viable alternative to most areas in Garden City as projecting signs are used mainly in urban, walking areas such as Hyde Park, Bodo, etc.

Multi-Tenant Signs (Free-standing Center Signs) – Lettering must be minimum of 4″ in height.

Non-conforming Signs – Can remain if no changes are made to the sign or if not more than 25% in property improvements. There are a few more conditions that I wasn’t able to write down, but these are the main two.

Sunset Clause for Non-conforming Signs – Staff and P&Z recommend removing.

Violations for Erecting Sign Without Permit – Misdemeanor, except temporary signs would be infraction.

In addition to my remarks in italics above, the items below still need to be addressed as they are not business friendly and will devalue commercial and industrial property over time. These items were not brought up in the meeting and will require the business community to come to the public meeting and speak out against them.

  • Loss of height and sq. ft in both wall signs and free-standing signs –  from 30%-70% reduction from what is currently allowed and way below what is allowed in Boise and Meridian. Unfortunately, the Committee believes that sign sizes need to be reduced considerably. The comparison chart that was presented to them by the City Planner showing Boise, Meridian, Eagle, and Garden City allowances is far from correct. This chart gives the appearance that the proposed sizes are not that far off from adjacent cities. An accurate chart that was completed by a sign company professional was presented to the Commission in December ’09, and needs to be resubmitted to them again at the next public meeting.
  • Adaptive Signs (Electronic Message Centers) – Allowed to be only 30% of total sign sq. ft. Not a lot of sq. ft. considering the restrictive overall sign sq. ft. Boise allows up to 75% of sign to be EMC.
  • Promotional Signs – Allowed to exhibit only 30 days per calendar year and require permit. Meridian has seen fit to allow for 120 days per calendar year, recognizing that business needs more promotional time in this economic climate.
  • Sign Districts – Many businesses have been put into residential-type districts, while they are clearly not. This will limit their sign height and sq. ft. as well as sign lights will have to be turned off at close of business or by 10 P.M.

Please feel free to leave your comments and check back here often for updates on meetings and progress on this crucial issue. And PLEASE come to the next public meeting to speak out on the areas of the sign code that will affect you and your business concerns.


February 2010 – Update on Garden City, ID, Sign Code

As of Last December the Sign Committee presented their latest version of a proposed sign code to the City Council and later to the Planning and Zoning Commission. Why it was done in that order, I don’t know. Usually it goes before Planning and Zoning first, but that is beside the point. Many business owners and property owners, professionals from the Idaho Advertising Federation and sign companies were present and spoke against the latest version of the sign code at the City Council Meeting. The impact from such a vocal group was palpable. The Council recommended that a new committee be formed and that much work was needed to bring the code to a place that was acceptable for the business community.

At the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting the following week, the turnout was much less probably because it was the week before Christmas. There were a handful of sign company professionals, the Idaho Advertising Federation representatives and maybe six businesses. The Commission recognized that the proposed sign code had some work that needed to be done, but said that they felt like it was pretty sound and just needed a little tweaking. The choice to either form another committee or not was left up to the City Planners.

A “work session” had been planned for January with the City Planners and the Planning and Zoning Commission. However, due to the death of one of the Commissioners, the meeting was cancelled. There is a meeting this evening, however it, too, is a “work session.” The public is allowed to attend, but not speak. I will post a synopsis of this evening’s discussion. Stay tuned!

Check the Sign Code Before You Sign a Lease

“I wish I would have know this before I signed my lease.” Unfortunately, I hear this way too often after I’ve explained to a business owner that the type and size of sign that is allowed at their location is not adequate. If you are thinking about signing a lease, purchasing a business or building, make it a priority to have someone who is familiar with the city’s sign ordinance research it for you and explain what you can and cannot have.  

Signs are a vital part of the advertising and marketing plan for most business types. Fifty percent of foot traffic, for many businesses, is due to their sign or signs. Too small or ineffective sign placement can be detrimental to your bottom line. If you’re customers can’t find you, you’ve got a problem.

Many cities have, or are in the process of, restructuring their sign ordinance. Some cities are being responsive to business needs by increasing the number of signs allowed, while others are decreasing the the number, maximum height and square footage of signs.

Don’t take for granted that because the business next door has a free-standing sign 25′ tall that you will be allowed the same, or that the letters on the building sign across the street are 22″ H, so you’ll be issued a permit for the same height. In fact, it definitely be in your best interest to check with a sign professional prior to signing any binding contracts or documents. He or she will be able to research the current sign code with all it’s nuances and give you specific information as to what is allowed at the location you’ve chosen.

The United States Small Business Administration Bulletin Number 101 on signage for business says, “…signs are the most effective, yet least expensive form of advertising for the small business.” What’s more, signs are always on the job for you, advertising 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Good signage can increase a business’s opportunity for success. Don’t overlook this important component of a successful launch of your new endeavor.

Well Designed Sign Brings Business & Community Rewards

Do you ever wonder why some cities are trying to down-size the size of signs? They are looking only at the aesthetics and not at the value that a sign brings to the business owner in terms of generating revenue, but also to the community. Properly designed and placed signs allow for safe exiting and entry to all types of establishments. Take a look at this video for a quick tutorial on just how vital signs really are.