Signs, signs & signs!


New Sign Ordinance

 Wall Sign 

It has been a long wait for change, 25 years since the last sign ordinance was first revised. On June 27, 2016 the Chapel Hill Town Council approved the long awaited revisions for business owners to make their business façades stand out and more closely represent what their business is all about. No longer will they be restricted to uniformity. Besides creativity, the new signage ordinance should resolve confusion issues of “what is or isn’t allowed” in the downtown area.

Signage was one of the issues identified by our white-paper “Barriers to Small Business Development” that was published in 2010.  We think this along with many other improvements made by the Town and beginning to create a more competitive environment for our business community.

As stated by Bobby Funk of the Downtown Chapel Hill Partnership, “I think this new ordinance achieves what we are looking for - greater flexibility and the ability for businesses to market themselves effectively.”

The Chapel Hill Downtown partnership offers matching grants for façade improvements including signage improvements. To apply visit

Awning Sign

According to Bobby Funk: There are Four Things to Know about the New Sign Ordinance:

  1. You may allocate up to 5% of your façade area for signage,
  2. Wall signs may now be installed up to 54’ above the sidewalk,
  3. Your sign allocation is no longer cut in half if it is internally lit, and
  4. Unified sign plans are no longer required for businesses on the same piece of property downtown.

 To see a full language of the sign ordinance refer to 

 Canopy Sign

Aaron Nelson, President of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce gives his insight as to why the changes are imperative.

 “This is one of the most important things you can do to support small businesses. Of all the laws you can change, of all the codes you can change, to change the lives of existing businesses by changing their ability to put up signs, will really, really matter,” stated Nelson. (Wygant, E,  June 2016 retrieved from,

Sign Permit Process

 Sign Permit Process

If you want to erect a sign for your business, you will need to submit a Sign Application for review by Planning. After they issue their approval, you will need to bring a drawing of the sign and a copy of the approval to the Inspections Division and apply for a Sign Installation Permit

 The agenda of the new sign ordinance is to forge an alliance with the businesses in Chapel Hill and give them more autonomy to attract customers, which in turn flourishes the city, creating economic vitality.