Michigan Sign Guidebook, 2nd Edition 

About the Guidebook

This Guidebook is the second edition of the Michigan Sign Guidebook, originally published in 2011 and authored by co-authors Brian Connolly and Mark Wyckoff of the Planning and Zoning Center at Michigan State University.

The first edition of the Guidebook, published in 2011, responded to and incorporated the lessons of many state and federal court cases that clarified the permissible scope of local sign regulation between 1989 and 2011.

This second edition of the Guidebook is again published after significant legal development in the area of sign regulation. Most significantly, the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Reed v. Town of Gilbert has greatly impacted local governments’ approach to sign regulation. Reed invalidated an Arizona town’s sign regulations because they impermissibly distinguished between signs based on a variety of non-commercial messages, including political, ideological, and temporary event-related messages. Although the first edition of the Guidebook correctly predicted the decision in Reed and advised local governments to regulate non-commercial signs in a facially content neutral manner, the case’s application of the content neutrality doctrine produced a sweeping result and rendered most of the local sign regulations in Michigan and the United States unconstitutional. The resulting effort to amend local sign regulations in response to Reed has been challenging—and is not yet complete. Upon release of this 2nd edition, many, if not most, local sign regulations remain non-compliant with Reed.

 The Sign Guidebook:

  • Addresses a wide range of issues associated with local sign regulation with a major focus on legal issues and how communities can develop sign ordinances that minimize legal risks;
  • 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; and
  • Focuses on ensuring signs meet the practical functional purposes for which signs are created, while preventing clutter and where feasible, enhancing the scenic quality of a community.

For more information, download the guidebook brochure or contact Scenic Michigan at info@scenicmichigan.org or at (231) 753-8116.

About the Author

Brian J. Connolly
Land Use Planner and Attorney at Otten Johnson Robinson Neff + Ragonetti PC

Brian is a frequent writer and speaker on land use law topics at regional and national conferences. He serves on the advisory board of the Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute and is the Chair Elect of the American Planning Association’s Planning and Law Division. Brian has served as the editor or co-author of three books addressing land use law topics, including the planning and local zoning issues associated with First Amendment issues associated with signs and advertising.

Contributing Authors: Andrew L. W. Peters & Lindsay K. Lyda

2021 Michigan Sign Guidebook

Digital Download: $50.00 | Printed Book: $85.00

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