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The Do’s and Don'ts of Signage

In the last six months, the City of Hamilton’s Planning Department has experienced an uptick in reports of business signage across town that is not in compliance with the community’s zoning regulations. In order to be consistent and fair in our efforts to bring business signage into compliance, we are giving a notice in advance of the comprehensive evaluations and signage enforcement that will begin in spring of this year. 


If you are a business owner/representative, this is the time to take a look at your current signage to see if you may be out of compliance with our signage regulations. Signage not only includes your permanent signs, but also temporary signs and banners, window decals, and sidewalk sandwich boards. 


The Planning Department recognizes that getting an enforcement letter from the City of Hamilton is intimidating and can be frustrating. That is why we are trying to get the word out about our signage regulations so that businesses have an opportunity to learn about the rules and work with the Planning Department proactively. Below is a snapshot of the City of Hamilton’s most common signage regulations. For the full regulations, please review Section 1138.00 Signs in the Hamilton Zoning Ordinance. As always, if you have any questions our please feel free to call our Planning Department at 513-785-7350. 


Temporary Signs:

  1. Temporary signs must be registered with the City of Hamilton Planning Department before they are displayed. You can find the temporary sign application here. The application is free.

  2. Business are allowed 1 temporary no larger than 32 square feet. This is a common issue that we have with business signage.

  3. To be considered temporary, the sign may be erected for a total of 90 days per lot per calendar year. 

  4. The sign must be behind the required 5 foot setback to any property line. 



Exempt Signs:

Not all signage requires approval from the City of Hamilton. Here are the most common signs businesses utilize that are exempt from zong approval, provided they meet the criteria listed:


  1. Window signs that cover no more than 25% of the total window area for the business on each building façade do not require a permit. This is one of the most frequent issues we have with business signage, as a number of businesses have been identified as having signage that covers much more than 25% of their window area.

  2. Portable A-Frame/sandwich board signs/single or double-sided freestanding signs do not require a permit.  One such sign display is allowed per business frontage (meaning that a corner building could have a sandwich board sign on both sides of the building), as long as it adheres to the following:

    1. The sign does not exceed 8 square feet per each signage face.

    2. The sign is not taller 5 feet in height. 

    3. Signs may only be displayed during hours of business operation (meaning they have to be taken in every night).

    4. Signs must be secured so as not to be a hazard.

    5. Signs must be placed out of the public right of way so as not create a hazard. 

    6. When an existing or proposed building has no front yard setback, the City may authorize the placement of such signs on public sidewalks provided the sign is sized and placed so as to maintain a minimum 5-foot wide zone for pedestrian traffic and the sign does not otherwise create a hazard for pedestrians.


Permanent Signs:

Zoning approval is necessary for all permanent signs except for those listed in the Exempt Sign section above. Zoning approval shall be requested by submitting an application to the City of Hamilton Building Department. The application should contain the following information: 


  1. Site plan showing: the location of all proposed and existing signage on site, existing and planned buildings and other relevant information that may include the distance the proposed signage is from the property line and site features such as sidewalks, parking areas, and driveways.

  2. Elevation plans drawn to scale showing height, clearance above the surrounding grade, sign dimensions, copy or graphics, colors and materials. 

  3. Signs within Hamilton’s Historic Preservation Districts must be approved by the Architectural Design Review Board. To obtain an application or to see if your property is within a Historic Preservation District or is an individually listed property on the Ohio Historic Inventory, please check out the website.


We hope that this signage overview will be helpful to our Hamilton businesses. The regulations listed above do not comprehensively cover all aspects of signage requirements in Hamilton so, if you have any questions, please call us at 513-785-7350 or check out the Hamilton Zoning Ordinance.