Permits

Outdoor Advertising Sign Permits

To apply for a permit, please fill out and submit an Outdoor Advertising Sign Permit Application.

The state of Arizona’s Highway Beautification Program requires oversight of outdoor advertising signs (billboards) placed along state highways and some other roads. This program is in addition to programs and ordinances of local governments to control and oversee placement of signs within their jurisdiction.

State law (ARS 28-7908) mandates that the ADOT director develop rules and regulations to administer a sign control program. Daily operations and coordination of the enforcement program were delegated to the Maintenance Permits Services office. The State Outdoor Advertising Control Laws and Regulations (ARS 28-7901 through 28-7915 and R17-3-701 and R17-3-701.01) are consistent with laws and regulations promulgated by Congress and the U.S. Secretary of Transportation (23 USC 131 and 23 CFR 750). The Federal Highway Administration provides oversight of the state program based upon the federal-state agreement.

The state laws primarily establish the authorized locations, prohibitions and standards for outdoor advertising signs placed and maintained along certain highways throughout Arizona. The state regulations primarily provide definitions of terms and permit application processes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does the State regulate outdoor advertising?

The Federal Highway Administration requires that each state regulate signage along every controlled highway. If the State fails to provide effective control, they may lose up to 10% of the federal portion of the State's highway funds.

What signs are regulated?

The State regulations are applied depending upon the type of sign. There are four major categories of signs and if you have any question as to which category a specific sign would be classified, please contact the Maintenance Permits Services Office.

On-Premise Signs

An on-premise sign is a sign that is located on the premises of the activity that the sign advertises. The premises is defined as that land that is actually used and integral to the activity. If the sign advertises only the activity on the premises, it is exempt from the State's requirements for size, location, and spacing, and does not need an Arizona Outdoor Advertising Permit.

For Sale/Lease Signs

A For "Sale/Lease" sign advertises the sale or lease of the property where the sign is located and does not have general advertising as its purpose. If the sign advertises only the sale or lease of the property where the sign is located it is exempt from the State's requirements for size, location, and spacing and does not need an Arizona Outdoor Advertising Permit.

Directional and Official Signs

Directional signs are a type of sign that directs motorist to publicly owned activities or attractions as well as private activities or attractions that qualify as being of significant interest to the public. Directional signs require a Directional Sign Permit. Please contact the Maintenance Permits Services Office for specific criteria.

Official signs are a category of signs that are erected and maintained by public officers or public agencies within their territorial or zoning jurisdiction and pursuant to direction or authorization contained in law for the purposes of carrying out an official duty or responsibility. In most cases, official signs require a State permit but a fee is not applied. Please contact the Maintenance Permits Services office for specific criteria.

Off-premise Signs (billboards)

Billboards are signs that are located on premises other than where the activity, service or product that the sign advertises is located. The State's regulations control the size, location, spacing, and lighting of billboards that are along the regulated highways. An Arizona Outdoor Advertising Permit is required before erecting or maintaining a billboard along a regulated highway. This is in addition to any permit that is required by the local governing jurisdiction.

What signs are prohibited?

The State's regulations provide certain prohibitions of regulated Outdoor Advertising Signs. The following are some of the prohibitions.

Signs are not allowed:

  • Unless they are legally erected and maintained after obtaining the required permits.
  • In the highway right-of-way.
  • To simulate or imitate a directional, warning, danger or information sign, such as by the use of the words "STOP" or "SLOW DOWN".
  • Within any stream or drainage channel or below the flood water level of any stream or drainage channel where the outdoor advertising might be deluged by floodwaters and swept under any highway structure crossing the stream or drainage channel or against the supports of the highway structure.
  • To display a red, flashing, blinking, intermittent or moving light or lights likely to be mistaken for a warning or danger signal.
  • To have any illumination of such brilliance and in such a position as to blind or dazzle the vision of travelers on the highway.
  • If they are not maintained in a safe condition.
  • If they are obviously abandoned.
  • To be placed in a manner that obstructs or otherwise physically interferes with an official traffic sign, signal or device.
  • To be placed in a manner that obstructs or physically interferes with the vision of drivers in approaching, merging or intersecting traffic.
  • To be placed on trees or painted or drawn on rocks or other natural features.
For information concerning a specific sign or situation please contact the Maintenance Permits Services Office.

Which highways are considered controlled highways?

Controlled highways are all of the highways on the National Highway System including all of the interstate highways as well as most of the national and state highways. In addition certain routes that were a controlled highway in 1991 are still controlled highways even if they are not part of the National Highway System. If you have a questing about a specific highway, please contact the Maintenance Permits Services Office.

Where can I install a billboard?

Prior to erecting a billboard that shows to a regulated highway, the sign owner must obtain an Arizona Outdoor Advertising Permit along with any permit that is required by the local jurisdiction. In order to obtain a State permit, the proposed sign and site must conform to the State's Outdoor Advertising regulations.

For a complete listing of the billboard requirements, please refer to Arizona Revised Statutes (§§A.R.S. 28-7901 through §§A.R.S. 28-7915) and the state regulations (R17-3-701 and R17-3-701.01). The following is a brief summary of the regulations regarding billboard placement:

Inside City Limits: billboards can be erected on property that is zoned commercial or industrial and, at locations that are 500 feet (100 feet if the sign is on a highway other than a freeway) away from any other billboard on the same side of the highway.

Outside City Limits: billboards can be erected on property that is zoned commercial or industrial and, at locations that are 500 feet (300 if the sign is on a highway other than a freeway) away from any other billboard on the same side of the highway.

In addition, the sign must be within 1000 feet of an ongoing commercial or industrial activity on the same side of the highway, or within 3000 feet of a freeway interchange that has a business within 1000 feet of the interchange on the same side of the freeway.

There are several conditions and prohibitions that are contained in the regulations and, if you have any questions about a specific site, you should contact the Maintenance Permits Services Office.

What are the size restrictions on billboards?

A billboard can be single faced, back-to-back or V-Shaped. The maximum size for a billboard is 1200 square feet per sign face. The maximum vertical dimension of the sign face is 25 feet. The maximum horizontal dimension of the sign face is 60 feet.

A billboard can have two faces facing in the same direction, in which case neither sign face can exceed 350 square feet in area and the total vertical and horizontal dimensions can not exceed 25 feet and 60 feet respectively.

Who has to get an Arizona Outdoor Advertising Permit?

The owner of an Off-premise advertising signs (billboard), a directional signs, and some official signs are require to obtain an Arizona Outdoor Advertising Permit prior to the construction of the sign. Applicant for directional or official signs should contact the Maintenance Permits Services office.

How do I apply for a permit?

The sign owner must submit a completed Arizona Outdoor Advertising Permit Application package to the Maintenance Permits Services Office. The Application can be hand delivered to the office at:

1739 W. Jackson Modular D
Phoenix, AZ 85007
602.712.7386

Or the Application can be mailed by regular postal service to:

Maintenance Permit Services
206 S 17th Ave, Mail Drop 004R
Phoenix, AZ 85007

A permit application is considered delivered when it is received by the Maintenance Permits Services Office. A complete permit application package consists of:

  • A completed application form (Application Instructions)
  • A completed location diagram (Sample Location Diagram)
  • A sketch of the proposed sign including dimensions
  • A copy of the written agreement from the land owner allowing the sign owner to install the sign at the proposed site.
  • A check in the amount of $20.00 made payable to ADOT as the permit application fee.

Note, that the proposed site must be marked with a stake or other device with the applicant's name identified.

Upon receipt of the application package, Maintenance Permits Services personnel will determine if the proposed sign and site conform to the State's Outdoor Advertising Regulations. It the sign and site conform, a permit will be issued. It they do not conform, the application will be denied consistent with the licensing time frames regulations under ARS §§ 41-1072 through 41-1079; R17-1-102

How much does a permit cost?

The Permit fee is $20.00 payable to the State of Arizona, due at the time of the application.

Do I have to renew the permit?

Permits must be renewed each year on the anniversary date of the issuance of the Permit. It is the responsibility of the sign owner to insure that the Permit is renewed each year. To assist with this process, Maintenance Permits Services will mail a Permit Renewal form to the sign owner prior to the renewal date. The sign owner is responsible for completing the renewal form and submitting it to Maintenance Permits Services along with the $5.00 renewal fee.

Can I transfer the permit?

If a sign is sold, the Permit can be transferred to the new sign owner by submitting a written request to transfer the Permit. The request should indicate the new sign owner, the new sign owner's mailing address and phone number, and date of the transfer of ownership of the sign. The request must be signed by the current sign owner of record and approved by the Department.

Do I need a permit to put a sign on my own property?

Potentially yes, depending on the category of sign you are considering. If you erect a sign on your property that only advertises a product or service that is located on the same premises as the sign, it is considered an on-premise sign and is exempt from requiring a permit. Note that the sign has to be on the premises of the activity.

When is a Permit cancelled?

If a conforming billboard is removed, the Permit shall expire within 30 days from the date of the removal, except the sign owner may notify the Department in writing that they intend to re-install the sign. The sign owner shall have 120 days within which to re-erect the billboard at the same location. No extension in the time to rebuild the sign will be allowed.

How much time do I have to install my sign?

Once a permit is issued, the sign owner has 120 days within which to install the proposed sign. The sign owner may request a 60 day extension in writing to the Maintenance Permits Services Section prior to expiration of the original 120 days. If the sign is not installed within the original 120 days or under an extension (if requested and granted), the Permit will be cancelled and the sign owner must re-submit a new application package prior to installing the sign.

Can I maintain my sign from the right-of-way?

If the sign is located along a freeway or any other controlled access highway, the sign can not be constructed, maintained or accessed from the right of way of the highway.

If the sign is located along a highway that is not a controlled access highway, the sign can be accessed from the right-of-way if there is no other access and if an Encroachment Permit is obtained from the District office prior to any encroachment upon a State highway or route.

Where can I get copies of the regulations?

You can request copies of the State's Outdoor Advertising regulations from the Maintenance Permits Services Office. The regulations are also available on line at the following sites:

Arizona Statutes ARS §§ 28-7901 through 28-7915
Arizona Regulations R17-3-701

Do the State regulations apply within the city limits?

Yes, the Arizona Outdoor Advertising regulations apply to signs that show to regulated highways regardless of whether the signs are inside or outside of city limits. It's important to note that the State's regulations are in addition to any regulations of the governing municipal or county jurisdiction.

Are Electronic Variable Message signs allowed on billboards?

Recent legislative changes now explicitly allow EVMS billboards along certain portions along the State's highway system.

HB 2543 was signed with an emergency clause making it effective May 9, 2012 and therefore is the current standard for billboards with Electronic Variable Message Signs (EVMS).

HB2453 amended A.R.S. § 7902; Outdoor advertising authorized, and provides the following provisions:

  • All new EVMS are restricted to the authorized area described in the statute.
  • Billboards outside of the authorized area are prohibited from being converted to EVMS after the effective date of the act (May 9, 2012).
  • Existing EVMS outside of the authorized area are non-conforming.
  • All EVMS must be turned off at 11:00 pm.
  • All EVMS must have automatic controls to ensure that the light intensity is restricted to a set amount dependent upon the size of the sign.
  • All EVMS must not display any form of animation and remain static for at least 8 seconds with a transition time no greater than 2 seconds.
  • The owners of signs that are converted to EVMS after the effective date of the act must notify the Department and must certify that the EVMS will conform to the Statute.
  • A city, town or county shall not issue a permit for the conversion of a billboard to an EVMS outside of the authorized area after the date of the act.
  • A city, town, or county can enact/enforce an ordinance regulating EVMS that is not less restrictive than the statute.

The Federal Highway Administration is currently conducting a study into Electronic Variable Message Signs (EVMS) along highways. The State's policy on EVMS may change based upon the results of the Study.

What is a non-conforming billboard?

Non-conforming billboards are those that existed prior to the effective date of the State's regulations and do not conform to the regulations. Also billboards that do not conform to the State's regulations because of changed conditions are classified as non-conforming.

Generally, non-conforming billboards are allowed to remain so long as the billboard is not altered. The advertising copy can change but the size, location, composition and lighting can not be changed. If you have any question concerning non-conforming billboards, please contact the Maintenance Permits Services Office.

How do I request information on an existing permit/sign?

Contact the Maintenance Permits Services Office to request information on an existing permit/sign.