To A-Frame or Not to A-Frame?

We often have customers come to our office and ask us whether a particular sign is “legal”. Our response is always the same: We don’t know. We’re not lawyers. Check with the County.

The County of Hawaii sign Code (click to download) is 28 pages long, and, well, a bit detailed. In the end, the sign code seems to be something that, while written with good intentions, does not have much basis in the reality of owning property or running a business in Hawaii.

Though (again!) I don’t work for the county, I would realistically say that upwards of 90% of the signs in Kailua-Kona violate the sign code in some way. It is, in effect, a sign code that has not or can not be enforced.

For many businesses, this is due to practical considerations: they are located off the main streets and it would be impossible for them to run the business without putting an A-frame sign on their building’s property by the street. For other businesses, it’s simply a matter of financial resources. A banner might costs $100 and a large, back-illuminated sign would cost several thousand dollars. The choice is easy, especially in these hard times when many business owners are having a hard time even paying rent.

After we tell our clients that we do not have a definite answer, we do tell them what we see in practice. Note: this is not in law, but in practice–the two are very different. The law always trumps in practice when the inspector comes around.

If you put a banner on someone else’s property, don’t be surprised when it’s gone. The is the rule of Common Sense.

There are several places in town that have multiple banners. Some of these are on public property. If you’re advertising an upcoming event, you might be OK. But, then again, you might lose your banner.

If you put a banner on your building (or inside the window) you are probably safe…in practice.

Most signs affixed to a building do not seem to arouse controversy, as long as the landlord and building owner approve.

If you are one of the idiots who staple or tape flyers to telephone polls or street lights, stop. I seldom see these taken down after the concert or garage sale. When you find your lost dog or cat, have the courtesy to remove the flyers.

Putting up an A-frame in any place that people walk is more than likely to get you in trouble. Got enough liability insurance?

A-frames on private property and away from walking areas don’t seem to be a huge issue.

Finally, Saturdays and Sundays are days off for the people who enforce the sign code (to my knowledge).

We make a lot of signs at Kona Impact, and we will certainly tell you if, in practice, what you want is not a good idea. That said, we always put the final responsibility with the buyer. If you have any questions, give us a call at 329-6077

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