Converting an On-Premise Sign

While driving through town I noticed an old car dealer sign that would work perfectly for an Off-premise sign. So to see if it was worthwhile I reviewed the city ordinance and found out that no new construction is allowed for off-premise signs. This did not slow me down, so I went and talked with the city Z.A. to see if I could get a variance. Of course, I would have to go in front of the board and present why I should be able to have this variance, which I can easily do since I am also a Realtor and advertising is an essential part of out job - they will not accept I am going to make it a billboard and going to make a bunch of money from it. So my question before I move any further is before I buy the sign from the tenant (since the business was a ground lease) negotiate out a ground lease with the landowner, have you ever been in a situation similar to this and how did it work out?

Disclaimer: I have never done this

To convert the on premise sign, you would need an off-premise sign permit. And since ordinance doesn’t allow new signs, that new sign permit would get denied.

If city gives you variance with no good reason then the city will have to give variances to everyone else that asks for it. And they not going to want that.

Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try something else, but you may need a new angle on this.

According to the Zoning Administrator the variance would only apply to this specific parcel. I believe that I can present a strong case in order to get the permit. Plus, the Z A told me that the board is pro-business and has approved items that he never thought would pass. What I am curious about is how the state will view this. It meets all requirements but is up for their approval to get the permit. I posed this question to see if this approach has ever been attempted. We shall see if I can pull it off.

In that case, go for it. Sounds like you have nothing to loose.

State requirements are not as strict as local gov (city). That’s at least how it works in my state.

I would go to the board meeting before you submit your app, and talk to board members and see what they say. That way you’ll get pretty good feel for what will happen.

Exactly! I have had to schmooze a few board zoning members before to get a deal done, hopefully it will work this time too. I guess this is creative thinking.

Getting a variance is the best way to do it – as that makes it legal and will save you from problems down the road plus give you an exit strategy if you ever want to sell it.

Another option – and I’m not saying this would work – would be to advertise some product for sale on the premises, and claim that it is a premise sign. For example, if there was a Coke machine on the property, you could advertise Coke and claim you were doing it to sell more coke in the machine. It’s a grey area in many cities and states. Of course, you would be very limited on the types of advertisers you could do this with. But I’ve seen it done before.