City Launches Sign Permit Amnesty And Gives Businesses A Break On Signs Without Permits

April 15, 2010

Today marks the first day of the Chicago Sign Permit Amnesty — a program that is offered by the City of Chicago Departments of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP), Buildings (DOB), and Zoning and Land Use (DZLU) that gives businesses a break on business signs without permits.

Chicago businesses with existing signs, canopies, awnings, banners or marquees may receive a one year waiver of permit fees when they voluntarily apply for any necessary but missing sign permits, either building permits and or public way use permits.  The Amnesty provides a savings of up to $600 for business owners and will run through October 15, 2010. The program is for businesses that lack one or the other permit, or may be lacking both.

The program also aides in clarifying the permit requirements for hanging signs in Chicago. Businesses that have signs, canopies, awnings or marquees require a sign installation permit to install the sign ensuring that it is safe and secure. This installation permit must be obtained through DOB by a licensed sign installer, and is followed by an inspection every other year.

If the sign hangs over the public way, the business owner is required to obtain a public way use permit issued by BACP and requires City Council approval.  These permits are renewed every five years, have an annual fee, and require proof of insurance.

“We are encouraging businesses to voluntarily come into compliance if they do not have all the required permits. The new streamlined process will also save businesses time and money, and enhance our services to small businesses,” said Commissioner of the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, Norma I. Reyes.

The Amnesty Program is for existing businesses with existing signs that are less than 100 sq. ft and under 24 feet in height above ground.

Types of signs that are not eligible for the amnesty include billboards and oversized wall signs, and signs that are located at another location (not at the business location). Other ineligible signs include those that do not conform to the City’s current laws and those that are already permitted.

Eligible businesses will have fees waived by voluntarily coming into compliance.   

The savings include the Building Permit fee that starts at $50, depending on the size; Zoning review fee that is $200, and the first years public way use fee that can range from $50-300, depending on the size; a total savings of more than $550.

In December 2009, the City introduced a number of ordinance changes to provide businesses with clear and easy rules to follow so they can be in compliance with the City’s requirements. This includes a new streamlined process to obtain on-premise business sign permits making it both easier and simpler for businesses.  

Obtaining both a building permit and a public way use permit will begin in BACP’s Business Assistance Center; the two processes will be linked and both permits will be issued simultaneously.  This will provide businesses with a clear understanding of the requirements necessary to hang and maintain a sign, canopy, awning, banner, or marquee in Chicago.

Another change includes a reduction in fees by creating a “Bundled Package” with a maximum fee of $175 for the three most common business uses that are on or over the public way, lights, canopies, awnings and signs.

Businesses interested in the Amnesty can contact the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection by calling 312.74GBOIZ (744.6249) or visit the website to download applications / brochures or in person at  the Business Assistance Center in City Hall, 121 N. LaSalle St. room 800. Chicago, IL. 60602.



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