Your business is opening and you need a sign. You decide on the design, size, material, and color while your sign company checks with the municipality to see what's allowed. And it turns out your sign is larger than the village code stipulates. But given the busy roadway it faces, the speed limit of the traffic, and how far it's set back from the street, you believe the size is warranted. What next?

Municipalities will agree to exceptions to their sign code if you apply for a variance. This additional application comes with a fee, detailed paperwork including proof of ownership, collated copies of the sign design and plat of survey of the property. Some municipalities ask for a small mock-up of the sign so they can see the colors and material.

The variance request goes through a series of meetings. The first is with the municipality plan commission, a group of leaders within the community who weigh in on what is allowed by code and what the petition requests. They look for hardship: is this larger sign really necessary given the visibility/traffic flow? Will the business do just as well with smaller sign? This is where having an experienced sign sales manager to present the case can be a benefit.

From there the plan commission recommends the approving the variance request to the village board. The village board meeting reviews these requests and recommendations and votes on a final approval. The process takes about 2-3 months for review and approval. However it can be worth the extra time and effort to obtain the sign that works best for your business.