Michigan Sign Guidebook: The Local Planning and Regulation of Signs
The Planning & Zoning Center (PZC) at MSU developed a new sign guidebook for use by local government officials. Mark Wyckoff, MSU professor, and PZC Director led the project and is a co-author, along with Brian Connolly, a law student at the University of Michigan (who has two degrees in urban planning). The new “” is a necessary addition to the library of planners, zoning administrators and municipal attorneys. People in these occupations will find expert advice in the Guidebook. In addition, the Guidebook is a “must have” for attorneys that are involved in risk reduction activities in their client municipalities.
This Guidebook replaces one prepared by Wyckoff in 1989 for the then Michigan Society of Planning Officials (now Michigan Association of Planning). It addresses a wide range of issues associated with local sign regulation, and focuses largely on legal issues and how communities can develop sign ordinances that minimize legal risks. The Guidebook includes information on how to regulate different sign types, as well as approaches to sign regulation that preserve “content neutrality”—a critical issue under federal First Amendment law. It also focuses on ensuring signs meet the practical functional purposes for which they are created, while minimizing traffic safety problems, preventing clutter and, where feasible, enhancing the scenic quality of a community.
The Guidebook is 286 pages in length and very thorough. Chapters include as an example, the following: Contemporary Sign Issues, Legal Context and Constitutional Considerations, Ten Regulatory Principles, Special Cases and Problems, Nonconforming Signage, Review of Model Ordinances from a Michigan Perspective and others dealing with critical sign regulation issues.
The Guidebook was prepared in partnership with Scenic Michigan, a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting, enhancing and improving the visual quality of Michigan’s communities and protecting the state’s unique scenic assets. Scenic Michigan is a chapter of the national organization known as Scenic America.
More than 300 people attended one of five training programs on the new Guidebook held in January 2012. Locations included Petoskey, Pittsfield Township, Big Rapids, Kalamazoo and Frankenmuth.
A large advisory committee made up of Michigan local planning practitioners, attorneys and members of the Scenic Michigan Board provided key direction. Retired City of Troy Planning Director, Larry Keisling coordinated the project for Scenic Michigan, where he is a board member. In addition, the two leading national experts in sign law assisted the project team with guidance on challenging federal sign legal issues: Professor Daniel Mandelker and Professor Allen Weinstein, Professor Gerald Fisher and Dr. Richard Norton, attorney and Professor of Urban Planning at the University of Michigan also provided similar assistance with regard to Michigan law. Other members of the Advisory Committee included: Don Wortman of Carlisle Wortman Associates; Doug Piggott of Rowe Engineering; Rory Bolger of the City of Detroit Planning Commission; Mark Graham, Delta Township Planning Director; Peter Steketee retired attorney and member of the Scenic Michigan Board; and Mary Lou Tanton, former long-time Emmet County Planning Commissioner and a member of the Scenic Michigan Board.