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On and Off-Premise Directional Sign Ordinance and Application

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Important Definitions in the On and Off-Premise Directional Sign Ordinance:

On-Site Directional Sign  A sign incidental to the use of the lot on which it is located that provides necessary information to guide traffic, whether vehicular or otherwise, within the site. Any one directional sign shall be no larger than five (5) square feet.

Off-Premise Directional Sign –Any off-premise sign indicating the location of or directions to a business, church, park, historic property, school, or other place of public assembly and shall contain no advertising content.

Section 15.4 of the Chatham County Zoning Ordinance outlines prohibited uses of signs. In lieu of directional signs, some of these prohibitions include, but are not limited to:

  • Any sign that uses the word "stop" or "danger" or otherwise presents or implies the need or requirement of stopping or caution or the existence of danger, or which is a copy or imitation of or which for any reason is likely to be confused with any sign displayed by a public authority. Provided, however, this provision is not intended to prevent the placement on private property of signs such as "stop", "yield" or other such wording or design where such is necessary for traffic control or other such legitimate notice to the public.
  • Signs affixed to trees, telephone poles,light poles, State-owned sign posts or public road right-of-way control fencing, except when used to post property or other such public purposes.

Section 15.11 of the Chatham County Zoning Ordinance pertains to Off-Premise Directional Signs:

  • Off-Premise directional signs are permitted in any zoning district provided no sign is larger than 32 square feet and no part of the sign is higher than eight (8) feet above the ground at its base.
  • three off-premise directional signs are allowed per business, church, park, historic property, school, or other place of assembly. 
  • Only one (1) off-premise directional sign is permitted per property; however multiple uses are allowed to be identified on the sign.
  • The square footage of the off-premise directional sign shall not be counted against the square footage of other signs allowed on the property. 
  • Written permission from the owner(s) of the property where the sign is proposed to be located is required to be submitted with the sign permit application.
  • Verification from the North Carolina Department of Transportation that the sign will not be in violation of any State regulations at its proposed location must be submitted with the sign permit application.

The Off-Premise Directional Sign Application is a free application that is available in PDF format, and can be submitted via Email. To submit the Application, please click the link below, complete the application, and save it on your computer. Once the completed application is saved, please email the application to the following address:  

If you have any questions, please call the Planning Department at (919) 542-8204. Paper copies of the application are also available at the Planning Department office.