Install a sign


Article 5 of the Land Development Code outlines the allowable type, placement and dimensions of signs. Zoning permits are required for permanent and temporary signs, including sandwich board signs. In local historic districts and overlay districts, a certificate of appropriateness is also required for signs.



Sign Types

Step 1.Sign standards

The number, type, and size of signs permitted depends on the zoning district in which the property is located, and in some cases, the type of use. See Article 5 of the Land Development Code for details.

Step 2.Prohibited signs

A full list of prohibited signs is provided in Section 18-387 of the Land Development Code. Examples of prohibited signs include:

  • Signs including statements, words, or pictures that are obscene as defined by NCGS 14-190.1
  • Signs within a public right-of-way
  • Signs painted on or affixed to any public infrastructure
  • Signs that create hazards
  • Signs resembling traffic signs, signals, or emergency vehicle lights
  • Signs erected on the roof of a building
  • Banners, posters, pennants, ribbons, balloons, streamers, wind devices, or other similarly moving devices or ornamentation
  • Certain types of illumination (Rotating beams of lights or stroboscopes, exposed incandescent lamps, glare, light trespass, flashing, animation)
  • Off-premise signs


Step 1.Gather materials

You will need the following information to apply for a sign permit:

  • Completed application form
  • Site Plan identifying the location(s) of the proposed sign(s)
  • Sign details (image of proposed sign with dimensions)
  • Details of proposed illumination (if any)
  • Application Fee

Step 2.Submit your application

  • Applications may be submitted electronically by emailing the Zoning team or in hard copy by mailing or dropping off at the Department of Planning and Development.

Step 3.Sign Permit

  • Staff will review your application and if the proposed sign complies with Land Development Code requirements, a permit will be issued.
  • The permit is valid for six months from the date of issuance. If work is not started within this period, the permit shall be null and void.
  • If work authorized by the permit is suspended or abandoned for six months, the permit shall be renewed, and payment of a fee equal to one-half the original fee will be required.


Step 1.Fee Amount

  • Sign Permit
    • 5 square feet or less: $0
    • Permanent on-premise and off-premise signs (nonelectric): $50 plus $1.00 per square foot over 100 square feet
    • Permanent on-premise and off-premise signs (nonelectric): $50 plus $1.00 per square foot over 50 square feet

  • Temporary Sign Permit: $30
  • Sandwich Board Sign-Initial Permit: $25
  • Sandwich Board Sign-Renewal: $10

Step 2.Payment Options

If you plan to pay in advance, planning staff must first notify the collections department to enable acceptance of payments.

Payment by Phone (910. 343.4745)

  • 8 am to 5 pm (Monday through Friday except for holidays)
  • Limited to VISA and MasterCard payments.

Payment in Person

  • 8 am to 5 pm (Monday through Friday except for holidays)
  • Billing & Collections Office
    Skyline Center
    929 North Front Street, 1st Floor

Payment by Mail

  • Please include invoice number or account number
  • Regular Mail
    City of Wilmington Collections
    PO Box 1810
    Wilmington, NC 28402
  • Express Mail
    City of Wilmington Collections

    929 North Front Street, 1st Floor
    Wilmington, NC 28401


Step 1.Building Permit

Some signs may require a building permit in addition to zoning approval. New Hanover County issues all building permits in the City of Wilmington. Please contact New Hanover County to determine whether a building permit is needed.

To apply for a building permit, please apply online through the County's COAST system or visit New Hanover County at 230 Government Center Drive, Suite 170.

Step 2.Compliance

Once your sign is installed, please contact the Zoning team to request a compliance inspection.