DISCLAIMER: The information provided on this page is a work in progress and should be viewed strictly as informative.
This webpage serves as a resource for property owners and sign contractors seeking information on allowable signage and signage approval processes on their City of Milwaukee Property. It should serve as a how-to-guide for user to understand what approvals are necessary, how to receive said approvals, and how to design an attractive and complementary sign.
Proposed signage should complement the building or site on which it is being placed. Its size and location should fit its setting and local context. The zoning code allows basic signage for most all properties and businesses, however allows larger signs when they are higher quality such as individual letter signs.
When considering signage for a property, one needs to understand and asses the following:
- What “type” of signs (as regulated by the Code) are being considered? What sort of sign characteristics do these signs have, such as individual letter or box-type signs?
- What is the zoning of the property and also determine if there are any additional requirements such as such as overlays, historic designations, architectural review board boundaries, program requirements for incentives?
- Whether the specific “use” of the property or business is simply a permitted use in the district, or whether a specific “use” approval has any special requirement for signage. For example, a use such a gas station may have additional criteria based on a Board of Zoning Appeals approval.
- Review the requirements of the zoning district and any other special requirements for additional consideration for the signage proposal.
Once understanding these items, choosing an appropriate sign that both can be approved as well as meet the signage needs and improve the property can be designed. Often an improvement to signage characteristics can not only allow a larger sign size, but can quickly gain staff approval from special districts and incentive programs.
- The City of Milwaukee Zoning Code defines various signs style and typologies. The major style and signs are demonstrated in the table below. To see all sign types (including roof, hood, window, and changeable message signs, ect.) see page 20 of the Zoning Code Definitions PDF). Click the image or text for more information about zoning regulations (dimensions, height, etc.).
Allowable signage on your property is subject to the base zoning district as well as potentially Overlay Districts and Special Districts, where discretionary approval may be required:
- Find your base zoning: My Milwaukee Home
- Make sure your use is permitted in your district.
- Find you if your property is within an Overlay District: My Milwaukee Home - Click the Special Interest tab
- Development Incentive Zone
- Site Plan Review Overlay Zone
- Master Sign Plan Overlay Zone
- Find out if your property within a special district: My Milwaukee Home - Click the Special Interest tab
- East Side - North Avenue Architectural Review Board
- Third Ward Architectural Review Board
- Historically Designated: Historic Preservation Commission
Understanding the Code
Base Zoning Links
Note: page numbers referenced below may not include ALL requirements and regulations related to district signage. Applicants should be sure to review all applicable code related to their district and use before submitting a sign package.
Subchapter 2: DEFINITIONS AND RULES OF MEASUREMENT
(see pages 680-681 and 696 for definitions related to signage)
Subchapter 4: GENERAL PROVISIONS - for understanding types, and other regulations applicable in all districts
(see pages 752-758 that discuss signage)
Subchapter 6: COMMERCIAL DISTRICTS - for designations: NS1, NS2, LB1, LB2, LB3, RB1, RB2, CS)
(see pages 828-830 that discuss signage requirements)
Subchapter 7: DOWNTOWN DISTRICTS - for designations: C9A through C9H)
(see pages 854-855 that discuss signage requirements)
Subchapter 8: INDUSTRIAL DISTRICTS - for designations: IO1, IO2, IL1, IL2, IM, IH)
(see pages 885-888 that discuss signage requirements)
Subchapter 9: SPECIAL DISTRICTS - for designations: PK, TL, PD, DPD, RED)
(see pages 908-909 (PK), 917-918 (TL), and 922 (PD/RED) that discuss signage requirements)
Redevelopment District Specific Links: RED Park East & RED Beerline B
Submitting a Sign Package for Permits
Do I Need a Permit?
Permit requirements are discussed in Chapter 244: Signs and Outdoor Advertising (see s.244-2 for information on sign permit requirements. See first page of PDF.)
Where Do I Apply? What are the Submission Requirements?
For information on sign permits, please contact the Department of Neighborhood Services (DNS)
Click here for DNS Development Center Information Sheet on Sign Permits (pdf)