DUBLIN, Ohio (COLUMBUS BUSINESS FIRST) — Commercial real estate agents say a new Dublin sign policy could negatively impact their ability to market and sell properties.

In April, Dublin City Council approved an ordinance putting new limits on the size, location, lighting and time restrictions on all signage within the city. Under the new policy, non-residential signs can only be displayed for 30 continuous days and no more than 90 per year. The policy also limits the size of signs to no more than 16 square feet in area, among other restrictions to protect “community aesthetics.”

Those restrictions are a problem from the commercial real estate industry, Columbus Realtors CEO Brent Swander told Columbus Business First, because signage plays a larger role in leasing commercial properties than it does for residential ones.

The commercial side of the industry doesn’t have a centralized database like the one used by residential agents. Because of the lack of a centralized database, brokers, realtors, and others must “use all the tools in their toolkits,” said Scott Hrabcak, Columbus Realtors executive vice president of HER Commercial Real Estate Services.

Hrabcak said a lot of business owners drive around looking at properties, and if the signs aren’t large enough, or are not there long enough, they are likely to miss them.

The time limits may pose a particular challenge for multi-tenant buildings. For example, if a building has 30 tenants, Hrabcak said, it is difficult to leave a sign up for only 90 days throughout the year, because tenancy will be turning over multiple times a year.

“You lose the ability to capture possible users that frankly may be interested in the structure if you fall out of the 90-day ordinance window,” Hrabcak said.

Available office spaces are typically listed as available for about six months prior to vacancy and, in Dublin, generally take about 14 months to lease, Swander said.

“A sign is used to market a property long before it’s vacant,” Swander said. “It’s almost like a coming soon status in the residential market, and that’s why a 90-day limit just doesn’t work.”

Lindsay Weisenauer, Dublin’s director of communications and public information, said city staff members have met with representatives from the commercial business community following the policy’s adoption and are continuing a dialogue with them.

She said the amendment did not include restrictions on a broker’s name or phone number, instead focusing on the temporary sign provisions that “address time, place, and manner, such as number of signs, height, sign location, lighting, and time restriction for a particular sign.”

“City Council’s goal is improve aesthetics,” Weisenauer said in an email.

Swander said Dublin is the only Central Ohio market with such an ordinance in place.

Swander and Hrabcak said they are continuing to work with the city to provide a business-friendly solution and address its concerns. Swander and other industry representatives met with staff before Thanksgiving, as they continue to make their case for solutions and compromises to the ordinance.

Swander said one of the solutions they brought to the city was to tie sign size to property lot size and allow for highway signage to remain “much larger.”

“We want to work collaboratively with the city,” Swander said.

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