Sign Ordinance

NEW: August 27, 2014:

All Signs Say Wrong Direction
Changes to City of Madison’s sign regulations are being proposed that will carry far-reaching economic consequences, resulting in less visible, less attractive, and less functional signage for Madison businesses.

The proposals (here and here) would restrict signs on mixed-use buildings to below the window sill of the second floor – regardless of any commercial tenants on upper floors – as well as reduce the allowable signage on commercial buildings.

These changes will impact new signs in Madison, eliminating flexibility and restricting the ability to create unique, identifiable signage.

Businesses of all sizes rely on signs to inform, direct and market to their customers. Unfortunately, Madison’s complex, arcane code fails to acknowledge or adapt to these pivotal functions. Instead of more restrictions, the Chamber Board is encouraging city leaders to take a comprehensive look at the code and find solutions to address shared goals: creating vibrant buildings with quality design and functional, visible signage for businesses.

It is important to be engaged and voice your opinion. As your advocate, count on us for continued updates and communication on this issue.



AUG. 1, 2012  Nearly 100 people attended last night’s informational meeting on the sign ordinance and Mayor Soglin’s sign code enforcement initiative. The audience was primarily small business owners who spoke passionately about the value their signage has for their business.

The Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce tweeted comments from the meeting which are also posted on our Facebook page. Please take a moment to give us your opinions.

Here is a sampling of media coverage from the meeting:

We will continue to work with a group of regional partner organizations and city staff to discuss the changes and find reasonable solutions to our shared goals.

POSTED: July 5, 2012  Mayor Soglin has announced plans to more aggressively enforce business signage in Madison. In particular, the Mayor has said the City will target sandwich board sign violations, real estate sign violations and businesses that have more signage in their window space than the code permits.

In addition, the Mayor has stated his intent to pursue more changes to the 53-page sign ordinance, including potentially reducing the maximum size sign for any commercial place.

The Mayor has agreed to delay implementation of these changes until more education and outreach can be done. As part of that process, the Chamber has been participating in a workgroup consisting of city staff and regional business partner organizations to discuss the changes and provide feedback on the potential business impact.

What You Can Do:

  1. Contact the Mayor and City Alders to explain the importance of signage and how these changes will impact your business.
  2. Share your Story with Us via Facebook or e-mail – What types of signage do you use for your business?  Have you made any recent changes that required city approvals?  Let us know about your experiences and how these new changes will impact your business.


Additional Background:

“Madison Signage 101: A Primer – Business Signage Approval and Illegal Signage Enforcement 2012” – presentation by City of Madison Department of Planning and Community and Economic Development

“Soglin Wants Crackdown on Illegal Business Signs Downtown” – by Dean Mosiman, Wisconsin State Journal (June 22, 2012)

Chamber Resources

Business Directory

Business Directory