Code Enforcement

​​​ Sign Ordinance

Save your business time and money! Before you display or install a sign at your business location, make sure your sign complies with the City of Charlotte's Sign Ordinance. Owners of signs that violate the ordinance are subject to citations and penalties.  Signs are restricted in the following locations: 

  • Within any public rights-of-way or on public property
  • Within 11 feet of the edge of the pavement of any road, street or alley
  • On any post, pole, tree, tree stake or guard, shrub, fire hydrant or anything else within 11 feet of the public right-of-way 

Neighborhood & Business Services' Code Enforcement Division personnel or their designees have the authority to summarily remove any notice, sign or written material found in violation of the above. 

Penalties:

  • $100 per sign for the 1st through 5th violations
  • $500 per sign​ for the sixth through 10th violations
  • $1,000 per sign for the 11th and future violations

Report a sign violation online
Read the City Sign Ordinance pertaining to signs within public rights-of-way and on public property. 

The information provided here is intended as a brief overview of what businesses should know before they install or display a sign. For more details and to ensure compliance, refer to the Charlotte Zoning Ordinance at www.charlotteplanning.org.

 

 

What is considered a sign?<div class="ExternalClassC707F4F71C844A7AAB22458C0A55BBCC"><p>​<span style="color:#2a2a2a;font-family:'open sans', sans-serif;font-size:13.3333px;line-height:21.3333px;background-color:#ffffff;">Generally, a sign is defined as any object, device or structure, or part thereof, situated outdoors and used to advertise, identify, display, direct or attract attention to an object, person, institution, organization, business, product, service, event or location by any means, including words, letters, figures, designs, symbols, fixtures, colors, illumination or projected images. Refer to the zoning ordinance for the full definition of what constitutes a sign in Charlotte.</span></p></div>
How do I know if I need a sign permit?<div class="ExternalClass973D25CA20A34002830FE25F54BB482B"><p>​<span style="color:#2a2a2a;line-height:21.33px;font-family:"open sans", sans-serif;font-size:13.33px;background-color:#ffffff;">Nearly all signs in Charlotte need a permit, including new signs as well as any modifications to or replacement of existing signs. Businesses can verify whether a sign permit is needed by calling 311 or visiting the Zoning Code Enforcement Office:</span></p><p><span style="color:#2a2a2a;line-height:21.33px;font-family:"open sans", sans-serif;font-size:13.33px;background-color:#ffffff;"><a href="https://www.google.com/maps/place/2145+Suttle+Ave%2c+Charlotte%2c+NC+28208/%4035.2229658%2c-80.8722943%2c17.5z/data=%214m5%213m4%211s0x8856a1df2a2138d5:0xf668eaca4c21331f%218m2%213d35.2235965%214d-80.871335"><span style="color:#2a2a2a;line-height:21.33px;font-family:"open sans", sans-serif;font-size:13.33px;background-color:#ffffff;"><span style="text-decoration:underline;">2145 Suttle Avenue | Charlotte NC, 28208</span></span></a></span></p></div>
Why do I need to know the zoning district I am located in to get a sign permit?<div class="ExternalClassA276FB051D6944E88A7F2C9392FDE8CD"><p>​<span style="color:#2a2a2a;font-family:'open sans', sans-serif;font-size:13.3333px;line-height:21.3333px;background-color:#ffffff;">Sign regulations differ based on the zoning district in which the business sign is located. For example, sign regulations for industrial districts can be very different from sign regulations for mixed-use development districts. In addition, special overlay and conditional districts, such as Pedestrian Overlay Districts (PED) and Mixed-Use Districts (MX) can have specific sign regulations. To learn the zoning district that business is in as well as whether you are located in a special overlay district, visit the Virtual Charlotte online tool at http://vc.charmeck.org. </span></p></div>
Once I know the zoning district, how do I learn what kind of sign is allowed?<div class="ExternalClass3626661EEB7F4EB5A409C9AB10CFAA90"><p>​<span style="color:#2a2a2a;font-family:'open sans', sans-serif;font-size:13.3333px;line-height:21.3333px;background-color:#ffffff;">Businesses should refer to the Charlotte Zoning Ordinance to learn what kind of signs are allowed, including where a sign can be located, what the maximum size can be, how many signs can be on a site, the type of lighting that can be used, etc. General sign regulations can be found in Chapter 13. Additional details applicable to specific zoning districts are in Chapters 9, 10 and 11. Businesses are encouraged to work with a reputable, professional sign company familiar with Charlotte's sign ordinance to help ensure compliance.</span></p></div>
Where can I get a copy of City of the Charlotte's Zoning Ordinance?<div class="ExternalClassD187B8C5BB344F469FE55F262ECBAE49"><p>​<span>The zoning ordinance can be found online at <a href="/planning/Rezoning/Pages/Zoning%20Ordinance.aspx">Zoning Ordinance</a>.​ </span></p></div>
Does Charlotte have design criteria for signs? <div class="ExternalClass95CC248F0FE1408581BDEC73B7ADB8ED"><p>​​<span style="color:#2a2a2a;font-family:'open sans', sans-serif;font-size:13.3333px;line-height:21.3333px;background-color:#ffffff;">Design criteria is based on, among other things, the zoning of the property on which the sign is being placed. Refer to Chapter 13 of the zoning ordinance for general information and Chapters 9, 10 and 11 for details surrounding specific zoning districts.</span> </p></div>
I want to change the face of my existing sign. Do I need a permit?<div class="ExternalClass1444893743894CE987668BFC743D27CC"><p>​<span style="color:#2a2a2a;line-height:21.33px;font-family:"open sans", sans-serif;font-size:13.33px;background-color:#ffffff;">Generally, you will not need a permit to simply change the face of an existing sign. However, a permit is required for things such as structural or size changes or if your existing sign will be taken down or otherwise removed and replaced. Refer to the ordinance for more details. Contact 311 or visit the Zoning Code Enforcement Office to learn if you need a permit for the type of work you propose. </span> </p><p><a href="https://www.google.com/maps/place/2145+Suttle+Ave%2c+Charlotte%2c+NC+28208/%4035.2229658%2c-80.8722943%2c17.5z/data=%214m5%213m4%211s0x8856a1df2a2138d5:0xf668eaca4c21331f%218m2%213d35.2235965%214d-80.871335"><span style="color:#2a2a2a;line-height:21.33px;font-family:"open sans", sans-serif;font-size:13.33px;background-color:#ffffff;"><span style="text-decoration:underline;">2145 Suttle Avenue | Charlotte NC, 28208</span></span></a></p></div>
Does maintenance of my existing sign require a permit?<div class="ExternalClassFB08C06D10124FABA97900AEE086B1DA"><p>​<span style="color:#2a2a2a;line-height:21.33px;font-family:"open sans", sans-serif;font-size:13.33px;background-color:#ffffff;">Generally nominal maintenance of signs, including necessary nonstructural repairs, does not require a permit. To ensure compliance, all repairs or changes to signage should be reviewed and approved by the Zoning Code Enforcement office: <a href="https://www.google.com/maps/place/2145+Suttle+Ave%2c+Charlotte%2c+NC+28208/%4035.2229658%2c-80.8722943%2c17.5z/data=%214m5%213m4%211s0x8856a1df2a2138d5:0xf668eaca4c21331f%218m2%213d35.2235965%214d-80.871335"><span style="color:#2a2a2a;line-height:21.33px;font-family:"open sans", sans-serif;font-size:13.33px;background-color:#ffffff;"><span style="text-decoration:underline;">2145 Suttle Avenue | Charlotte NC, 28208</span></span></a>.</span></p></div>
Can I display a temporary banner on my building?<div class="ExternalClass54CB7DB53CCD49CDBD8712998E306C29"><p>​<span style="color:#2a2a2a;font-family:'open sans', sans-serif;font-size:13.3333px;line-height:21.3333px;background-color:#ffffff;">Temporary banners are allowed as long as they comply with Section 13.106(12) of the zoning ordinance. Generally, businesses are allowed to display a temporary banner without a permit up to six times per year for a period not to exceed two weeks each. One banner at a time is allowed per establishment and the banner must be attached in total to a building wall. Special event banners are allowed for religious, charitable, civic, fraternal or similar organizations as long as they comply with Section 13.106(11).</span></p></div>
What if I want to display a sign in my business window?<div class="ExternalClassFC1D172B80F64842801DCEE6A9F767BB"><p>​<span style="color:#2a2a2a;font-family:'open sans', sans-serif;font-size:13.3333px;line-height:21.3333px;background-color:#ffffff;">Generally, window signs are allowed and do not require a permit as long as they comply with Section 13.106(5). Businesses should be aware that the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department discourages window signs that block visibility into a building.</span></p></div>
I want to place a portable or A-frame type sign in front of my business. Is this allowed?<div class="ExternalClassE4D6FBF2622745F98E046352E3C7AD36"><p>​<span style="color:#2a2a2a;font-family:'open sans', sans-serif;font-size:13.3333px;line-height:21.3333px;background-color:#ffffff;">A-frame and other types of portable signs are not allowed. Businesses that display these types of signs are subject to citations and fines.</span></p></div>
How big can my sign be?<div class="ExternalClass74F5F607492C41E5B35D465C07C8AE72"><p>​<span style="color:#2a2a2a;font-family:'open sans', sans-serif;font-size:13.3333px;line-height:21.3333px;background-color:#ffffff;">The maximum size allowed is determined by a number of factors, such as the zoning district the sign is located in, whether or not the sign is in a special urban district like PED, TS, UMUD, etc., and the total square footage of the building(s) to which the sign is attached or applies. Refer to the zoning ordinance for details and consider working with a professional sign company familiar with the ordinance to help ensure compliance.</span></p></div>
How do I calculate my sign area? <div class="ExternalClassDCF30EB06E13449EBA80D56C254F11D3"><p>​<span style="color:#2a2a2a;font-family:'open sans', sans-serif;font-size:13.3333px;line-height:21.3333px;background-color:#ffffff;">Refer to Section 13 of the zoning ordinance for details on how to calculate the sign face area. Generally the area within a single, continuous perimeter enclosing the extreme limits of characters, lettering, logos, illustration or ornamentations, together with any material or color forming an integral part of the display or to differentiate the sign from the background to which it is placed is considered the sign area. If a sign is attached to an entrance wall or fence, only the portion of that wall or fence on which the sign face or letters are placed shall be calculated in the sign area. The area of a business sign occupied by the address shall not be included in any area except where the address is also the name of the business or institution owning or occupying the premises.</span> </p></div>
What is changeable copy?<div class="ExternalClass742F3E7EA44C4435817157E0E45FCA84"><p>​<span style="color:#2a2a2a;font-family:'open sans', sans-serif;font-size:13.3333px;line-height:21.3333px;background-color:#ffffff;">Changeable copy is copy that is or can be changed manually in the field or through mechanical means (e.g. readerboards with changeable letters). The zoning ordinance provides guidelines on the maximum amount of changeable copy  a sign can have. </span> </p></div>
Where on my property can I put a sign? <div class="ExternalClass43D9B0D4E1334928AC839E08DBF791DA"><p>​<span style="color:#2a2a2a;line-height:21.33px;font-family:"open sans", sans-serif;font-size:13.33px;background-color:#ffffff;">Generally signs must be located out of the right of way and sight distance triangles. Additional details can apply depending on other factors such as the zoning district. Refer to the zoning ordinance and contact the <a href="/NBS/Code/Zoning/Pages/default.aspx">Zoning Code Enforcement</a> office for specific questions. </span> </p></div>
What is a sight-distance-triangle?<div class="ExternalClassDB734D3B9B934221B264C6E16C51E400"><p>​<span style="color:#2a2a2a;font-family:'open sans', sans-serif;font-size:13.3333px;line-height:21.3333px;background-color:#ffffff;">The area needed to be clear of site obstruction for safe vehicular turning movements is called the "sight distance triangle". The sight distance requirements affect the location of all obstructions, including signs, landscaping, fencing, parking, buildings and other improvements. The procedures to determine required sight distance for a property can be found in Section 12.109 of the zoning ordinance.</span> </p></div>
What is a nonconforming sign?<div class="ExternalClass69DF0AC213044580A34FD49D4BF322B9"><p>​<span style="color:#2a2a2a;font-family:'open sans', sans-serif;font-size:13.3333px;line-height:21.3333px;background-color:#ffffff;">Nonconforming signs, also commonly referred to as "grandfathered" signs, are those that were lawfully installed and maintained prior to enactment of the zoning ordinance but now fail to conform to the current ordinance. Nonconforming signs must be removed or replaced with conforming signs when certain events occur, such as when substantial alterations are made to the building façade or when a new sign permit is obtained. Refer to Section 13.112 for additional details.</span></p></div>
May I keep a sign that is larger than the maximum sign height or sign area for a zoning district? <div class="ExternalClass30D6E2DBC6804143B2400D8AB5810F91"><p>​<span style="color:#2a2a2a;font-family:'open sans', sans-serif;font-size:13.3333px;line-height:21.3333px;background-color:#ffffff;">A sign that is larger than the ordinance allows may be "grandfathered." Such signs may be allowed to remain provided any work on the sign is considered routine maintenance. Grandfathered, nonconforming signs must be removed or replaced with conforming signs when certain events occur, such as when substantial alterations are made to the building façade or when a new sign permit is obtained. Refer to Section 13.112 for additional details. </span></p></div>
Can I install a sign that is not allowed by the zoning ordinance?<div class="ExternalClassEE08B8212A7449FAA5FE14949B9884EC"><p>​<span style="color:#2a2a2a;font-family:'open sans', sans-serif;font-size:13.3333px;line-height:21.3333px;background-color:#ffffff;">No. Signs that violate the zoning ordinance are not allowed and are subject to citations and penalties (Section 8.105). Variance requests are reviewed by the Zoning Board of Adjustments pursuant to Section 13.114. </span></p></div>
How do I apply for a sign permit?<div class="ExternalClass6461577E20D54870AE06E7F1A9CCE911"><p>​<span style="color:#2a2a2a;line-height:21.33px;font-family:"open sans", sans-serif;font-size:13.33px;background-color:#ffffff;">Sign permit applications, together with renderings or drawings of the sign and other required information, should be submitted to the City of Charlotte Zoning Code Enforcement Office between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. </span></p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-right:0px;"><span style="color:#2a2a2a;line-height:21.33px;font-family:"open sans", sans-serif;font-size:13.33px;background-color:#ffffff;"></span><a href="https://www.google.com/maps/place/2145+Suttle+Ave%2c+Charlotte%2c+NC+28208/%4035.2229658%2c-80.8722943%2c17.5z/data=%214m5%213m4%211s0x8856a1df2a2138d5:0xf668eaca4c21331f%218m2%213d35.2235965%214d-80.871335"><span style="color:#2a2a2a;line-height:21.33px;font-family:"open sans", sans-serif;font-size:13.33px;background-color:#ffffff;">2145 Suttle Avenue | Charlotte NC, 28208</span></a></p><p><span style="color:#2a2a2a;line-height:21.33px;font-family:"open sans", sans-serif;font-size:13.33px;background-color:#ffffff;">A sample sign permit application and checklist are <a href="/NBS/Code/Zoning/Pages/default.aspx">available online</a>.  Zoning staff can provide applications if you call  704.336.7600.</span></p></div>
When will I get my sign permit? <div class="ExternalClass9FA4C5D8FAA641508839D97ED4709D29"><p>​<span style="color:#2a2a2a;font-family:'open sans', sans-serif;font-size:13.3333px;line-height:21.3333px;background-color:#ffffff;">The review and processing of sign permits typically takes up to three to five business days from the date the application was submitted. </span> </p></div>
Will I have to pay a fee for a sign permit? <div class="ExternalClass4FAFE2F11E9F4AE19A224DFCDBF0CFAD"><p>​<span style="color:#2a2a2a;line-height:21.33px;font-family:"open sans", sans-serif;font-size:13.33px;background-color:#ffffff;">Typically the fee for obtaining a sign permit is determined by the size of the sign. To learn about current fees, visit the <a href="/NBS/Code/Zoning/Pages/default.aspx">Zoning Code Enforcement</a> webpage or call 311.</span></p></div>
I've received a Notice of Violation. What do I do?<div class="ExternalClass7C48F4A643474D01A3B9667CD4A4CBEA"><p>​<span style="color:#2a2a2a;font-family:'open sans', sans-serif;font-size:13.3333px;line-height:21.3333px;background-color:#ffffff;">Signs that violate the zoning ordinance are subject to citations and fines. If you have received a Notice of Violation (NOV), you must correct the violation within an established amount of time. Failure to do so will result in additional action.   Appeal requests to a violation or citation must be submitted according to the instructions provided in the NOV/citation documents that are issued by the inspector.</span></p></div>
Who do I call if I have more questions? <div class="ExternalClass8B76B1246CEB45A8A480C1FCFD376D94"><p>​<span style="color:#2a2a2a;line-height:21.33px;font-family:"open sans", sans-serif;font-size:13.33px;background-color:#ffffff;">Contact 311 for additional questions or visit the Zoning Code Enforcement Office at <span style="color:#2a2a2a;line-height:21.33px;font-family:"open sans", sans-serif;font-size:13.33px;background-color:#ffffff;"><a href="https://www.google.com/maps/place/2145+Suttle+Ave%2c+Charlotte%2c+NC+28208/%4035.2229658%2c-80.8722943%2c17.5z/data=%214m5%213m4%211s0x8856a1df2a2138d5:0xf668eaca4c21331f%218m2%213d35.2235965%214d-80.871335"><span style="color:#2a2a2a;line-height:21.33px;font-family:"open sans", sans-serif;font-size:13.33px;background-color:#ffffff;"><span style="text-decoration:underline;">2145 Suttle Avenue | Charlotte NC, 28208</span></span></a></span> between the hours of 8 a.m. —5 p.m. Monday through Friday.</span></p></div>
Prohibited Signs<div class="ExternalClassCFA300E04A01434BA7AF4174359F266F"><p>​<span style="color:#2a2a2a;font-family:'open sans', sans-serif;font-size:10pt;line-height:1.6;background-color:#ffffff;">Examples of prohibited signs include but are not limited to the following:</span></p><p><ul><li><span style="color:#2a2a2a;font-family:'open sans', sans-serif;font-size:10pt;line-height:1.6;background-color:#ffffff;">Roof signs</span><br></li><li><span style="color:#2a2a2a;font-family:'open sans', sans-serif;font-size:10pt;line-height:1.6;background-color:#ffffff;">Portable signs including A-frame signs</span><br></li><li><span style="color:#2a2a2a;font-family:'open sans', sans-serif;font-size:10pt;line-height:1.6;background-color:#ffffff;">Off-premise signs</span><br></li><li><span style="color:#2a2a2a;font-family:'open sans', sans-serif;font-size:10pt;line-height:1.6;background-color:#ffffff;">Flashing, fluttering, swinging or rotating signs other than time and temperature signs</span><br></li><li><span style="color:#2a2a2a;font-size:10pt;line-height:1.6;font-family:'open sans', sans-serif;background-color:#ffffff;">Signs similar in color, design and appearance </span>to<span style="color:#2a2a2a;font-size:10pt;line-height:1.6;font-family:'open sans', sans-serif;background-color:#ffffff;"> traffic control signs</span><br></li><li><span style="color:#2a2a2a;font-family:'open sans', sans-serif;font-size:10pt;line-height:1.6;background-color:#ffffff;">Signs located within or projected into a public right-of-way</span><br></li><li><span style="color:#2a2a2a;font-family:'open sans', sans-serif;font-size:10pt;line-height:1.6;background-color:#ffffff;">Signs located in the sight distance triangle (Section 12.109 of the zoning ordinance)</span><br></li><li><span style="color:#2a2a2a;font-family:'open sans', sans-serif;font-size:10pt;line-height:1.6;background-color:#ffffff;">Any signs attached to utility, streetlight or traffic signal poles or lights</span><br></li></ul><span style="color:#2a2a2a;font-family:'open sans', sans-serif;font-size:10pt;line-height:1.6;background-color:#ffffff;"></span></p><p><span style="color:#2a2a2a;font-size:10pt;line-height:1.6;font-family:'open sans', sans-serif;background-color:#ffffff;"></span></p><p><span style="color:#2a2a2a;font-size:10pt;line-height:1.6;font-family:'open sans', sans-serif;background-color:#ffffff;"></span></p></div>
Can I attach a sign to a utility pole?<div class="ExternalClass3F5200886EB34CAB99EF8CA03DCC44C7"><p>​<span style="color:#2a2a2a;font-family:'open sans', sans-serif;font-size:13.3333px;line-height:21.3333px;background-color:#ffffff;">No. Signs attached to utility poles, traffic signal poles, streetlights, etc. are a public safety hazard and are expressly forbidden. </span></p></div>
I've been considering buying yard stake signs to advertise my business. Where can I put these?<div class="ExternalClass08C14D6B520F43DE9F2D9AD1C9477071"><p>​<span style="color:#2a2a2a;font-family:'open sans', sans-serif;font-size:13.3333px;line-height:21.3333px;background-color:#ffffff;">Portable signs such as yard stake signs violate the sign ordinance and are not allowed.</span></p></div>

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