May 10, 2024 - News

Detroit City Council member requests action on NFL Draft sign uptick

Illustration of a large sign on a building, with a no symbol.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

A City Council member is requesting enforcement action over any giant advertising signs erected illegally as a result of the NFL Draft's presence.

Why it matters: Any super signs — large-scale ads on the sides of downtown buildings — that businesses put up illegally are depriving the city of signage permit fee revenues, including contributions to the city's public art fund, council member Scott Benson tells Axios.

What they're saying: "If you're not paying into the art fund, what you're doing is taking money out of the pockets of Detroit artists who utilize that fund to erect sculptures and other kinds of public art," Benson says.

  • He adds that he also wants to see businesses held accountable to follow city ordinances, erasing free-for-all attitudes from before the city updated its signage rules.

State of play: The downtown core saw a rise in large ad signs due to the exposure from the draft, per Benson.

  • He wants the city's Buildings, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department (BSEED) to determine the number of signs that were placed and how many went through proper permitting processes, versus being erected illegally, he wrote in a late-April memo.
  • He also requested BSEED explain how it plans to remove any illegal signs and impose fines.

Between the lines: "We are in the process of assessing signage for the draft and will be able to provide an update next week," David Bell, BSEED's director, said in a statement emailed to Axios.

Catch up quick: About four years ago, the city updated its outdated, not-often-enforced advertising sign rules for the first time in decades. Leaders wanted to prevent crowding and end the previous "free-for-all" over who put up signs where they wanted, Crain's wrote at the time.

  • Big wall ads were prohibited but the rules were largely ignored, per Crain's.

Businesses can now get permits for various sign types, including painted or illuminated signs, with options up to 5,000-square-foot "super signs" on building exteriors.

  • The super signs are regulated closely to not hamper downtown's aesthetics, per an ordinance user guide.

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