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Sign Permit Information

Signs are regulated by the City of Hickory to stabilize and protect property values, maintain the visual attractiveness of the City and its environs, and to promote the public safety. The regulations govern the location, size, and type of signs and require that most signs obtain zoning and building permits. Article 10 of the Land Development Code contains most of Hickory's signage regulations. The Permit Center issues sign permits and can provide further information on sign regulations. They can be reached at (828) 323-7410.

Signs Requiring Permits

Unless specifically exempted in Article 10 of the Land Development Code (many exemptions are listed below), all permanently installed signs require a sign permit.

In most zoning districts, permanent wall signage is limited in size to two (2) square feet per linear foot of principal building front facade (or bay width in the case of multi-tenant buildings), not to exceed three hundred (300) square feet. Buildings with primary walls in excess of one hundred fifty (150) linear feet shall be allowed wall sign area equal to fifteen percent (15%) of the total area of the primary wall face. Free-standing sign regulations vary by zoning district.

Temporary signs and banners are strictly regulated and require a temporary sign permit for either one (1) year or twelve (12) weeks. Certain forms of temporary signage are not permitted, including, but not limited to, balloons, feather flags, and inflatable signs. For more information, please review the temporary signage webpage.

Failure to obtain the required permits will result in a Notice of Violation issued by the Zoning Enforcement Officer, which could lead to civil citations. All signs (permits required or not) must be located outside the right-of-way and sight distance triangle. Signs placed within these areas will be discarded by the Zoning Enforcement Officer without warning.

Application Requirements

New signs must be permitted prior to installation. Please see the Sign Permit Review Flow Chart for an overview of the process. An application for a permanent sign can be obtained from the Permit Center or found below. The completed application should be submitted to the Permit Center on the second floor of City Hall. The application needs to be accompanied with a site plan showing the following information: property boundary, right of way location, driveway locations, utility easements, size and locations of existing signs on the lot and building, new sign locations, size, and height, sign design sketch, location and dimensions of the building's walls, and a wind-load statement.
For free-standing signs over twelve (12) feet in height and/or over thirty-two (32) square feet in area, two (2) sets of complete plans with the appropriate signatures and seals of the architects and engineers are needed for review. Please refer to Section 3107.1 of the North Carolina Building Code for requirements or call Catawba County Building Services at (828) 465-8399. For free-standing signs between six (6) and twelve (12) feet in height, as well as, wall signs, only two (2) complete set of plans are required for review. For free-standing signs under six (6) feet in height, only one (1) set of plans is required for review. Please contact the Permit Center for further information.

Signs Exempt from Zoning Review

  • Signs not over two (2) square feet and only identifying the property numbers and names of the occupants of the premises for public safety purposes.
  • Historic markers erected by a governmental body.
  • Legal notices, traffic signs, and related signage erected by or on behalf of a governmental body.
  • Architectural features excluding letters, trademarks, moving parts, moving lights.
  • Signs that direct traffic on private property, that are less than four (4) square feet in area, two (2) feet in height, and within three (3) feet of the driveway.
  • Signs used in conjunction with equipment necessary to the business such as drive-through menu boards, signs on ATMs, gas pumps, vending machines, etc.
  • Official flags on non-residential property; limited to one, 40 square foot flag per lot on existing flag poles.
  • Flags, emblems, or insignia of a government on existing flag poles.
  • Window signs placed in non-residential properties; not to exceed thirty-three percent (33%) coverage of the window glass.
  • Construction signs not exceeding sixteen (16) square feet in non-residential zoning districts and not exceeding eight (8) square feet in residential zoning districts.
  • Temporary signs for special events not over thirty-two (32) square feet for no longer than fourteen (14) days.

Special Signs

  • Billboards - New off-premise signs are not permitted. Existing signs may be replaced subject to certain standards.
  • Electronic Message Boards - LED signs are permitted in commercial zoning districts, subject to certain standards.
  • High Rise Signs - Parcels within the High Rise Sign Overlay District may have an additional free-standing sign that complies with the regulations outlined in Article 4 of the Land Development Code.
  • Portable Signs - Except for permitted temporary signs, no portable signs are allowed.
  • Projecting Signs - Wall signs that project greater than twenty-four (24) inches are only permitted within the C-1 (Central Business District) zoning district.

Key Documents

Sign Permit Review Flow Chart
Chapter 4 of the Land Development Code
Chapter 10 of the Land Development Code
Sight Triangle Diagram
Temporary Sign Application (12 Weeks)
Temporary Sign Application (1 Year)
Permanent Sign Application