Sign Ordinance

The City of Detroit is developing a new sign code, supported by work done by our consultant, Interboro Partners.  The internal, cross-departmental working group, led by the Planning & Development Department (PDD), evaluated national best practices to develop the framework for the City's ordinance.  After this working group completed its work, the City’s Law Department drafted the ordinance integrating regulations for both on and off-premises (advertising) business signs into a new section of City Code for ease of use. We are updating the ordinance to better address new technologies and new developments, such as the proposed Entertainment District.  The draft also proposes to lift the current ban on advertising signs within the 15.1 square miles bounded by East/West Grand Boulevard and the Detroit River and proposes separate standards for advertising signs within the Central Business District.

The ordinance drafted by the City’s Law Department was submitted to the City Council on January 31, 2019 for consideration, and Council is targeting approval of the ordinance in July.  Councilman Scott Benson is hosting a series of stakeholder engagement meetings to seek the feedback of various stakeholders and the general public.  The first one is oriented toward property owners in the downtown area, and will be held on March 15, 2019 at 8 am at Plymouth United Church of Christ, 600 E Warren Ave.   If you plan to attend RSVP to Tiombe Nkenge at [email protected].  Please send any proposed ordinance changes also to [email protected], as these suggested modifications will be complied for the final discussion on the ordinance.

The goals for this work are:

  1. The new ordinance should be clear and easy to use for everyone—including City staff, business owners, and residents.
  2. The new ordinance should be easy to enforce. Enforcement efforts must be well-supported and well-coordinated across the entire city.
  3. The new ordinance should protect and encourage the unique signage practices and visual character that help make Detroit special.
  4. The new ordinance should help catalyze the City’s broader planning and development goals- like better streets, better business climate, better safety and better image.
  5. The new ordinance should promote practices that are in the public interest. It should consider diverse groups across Detroit, from businesses and developers to residents and visitors.

The ordinance’s initial presentation given to City Council’s Planning and Economic Development Committee on February 7, 2019 is available here:


The draft ordinance is available here:


For information about obtaining a building permit for a sign or for questions about current regulations for signs, please contact:

Zoning Division
Buildings, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department