All Signs Point to Improvement for City Sign Code

Over the last year, the Chamber has led a workgroup of city and business leaders focused on finding solutions to problematic areas of Madison’s sign code that would support city planning, safety, and private business goals. This effort began with the introduction of proposed changes to Madison’s sign code that would have created new, across-the-board restrictions and reduced signage for commercial signage. The Chamber opposed the original proposal and built coalition of partners to encourage a more meaningful, comprehensive discussion on Madison’s sign regulations to address city and business concerns. Read the coalition’s letter to Mayor Soglin here.

The Mayor agreed to hold off on his proposals and proceed with the proposed review. To guide that discussion, the workgroup developed six shared goals:

1. We both seek to appropriately manage the use of commercial messages within the city, to provide attractive signage compatible with surroundings, and to prevent unnecessary clutter within the city.
2. Signage options should be affordable for businesses, functional for their locations, and visible for customers.
3. Ordinances should not limit originality or sense of place but allow for the creation of beautiful, vibrant, and safe buildings with quality design.
4. The sign code should prioritize visibility of business signs and take into account factors such as location while making provisions to be flexible, functional, and allow for creative flair.
5. Businesses should have access to clear and easy-to-understand information about signage, city codes, and sign application process.
6. Finally, the sign permit and approval process should be timely and efficient for city staff, committees, and businesses.

Last week, this work culminated with the introduction of several proposed changes to Madison’s sign code. If adopted, these changes not only will provide more flexibility for businesses, it also recognizes the important role that appropriate and identifiable signage has in helping businesses inform, direct and communicate with customers.

We expect more conversations on signage in the future, but this proposed set of changes is a positive step forward.

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