In luly 1997, Signs of the Times magazine received a fax from the late Andrew Bertucci, the Executive Director of the United States Sign Council (USSC). Through a chance conversation with an engineer, he heard about a proposed International Zoning Code (IZC) that was being considered by the International Code Council (ICC) and the Building Officials and Code Administrators International (BOCA). Chapter 10 in this IZC specifically addressed signs, with the following regulations. (No one from the sign industry was notified of the public hearing, nor the Final Action Hearings slated for September and October 1997.)
Freestanding signs in commercial areas would be limited to 40 square feet.
Projecting signs could not exceed 64 square feet.
Lighting for sign would be limited to internal illumination and exterior floodlights. Visible lighting sources such as exposed neon were prohibited.
Roof-mounted signs would be prohibited.
Portable signs, banners and pennants would only be permitted as temporary signs.
Billboards would be limited in height to 36 feet above grade and a maximum of 300 square feet.
Freestanding signs within 15 feet of the property line could not exceed 15 feet in height. For each 1 foot further back, 2 feet of height could be added, up to a maximum of 36 feet. Freestanding signs on abutting properties must be at least 50 feet apart.
Legal, nonconforming signs that would require alterations in excess of 25% of the sign's value would need to conform to all new regulations.
At the time, Signs of the Times Technical Editor Bill Dundas (currently an FASI board member) observed, "In my 20 years of dealing with a wide variety of municipal sign codes, this is the first time I've seen such a large-scale effort to override local autonomy."
After the ICC agreed to postpone the IZC for further review, the related, but separate, International Building Code issued proposed signage regulations throughout various chapters. In contrast to the IZC, it was considered "advisory," and not a mandate.
Chapter 4 restricted the size of plastic panels and signs in covered shopping malls. Chapter 15 (rooftop structures) restricted the sign height and prohibited illuminates signs. The most restrictive chapter, 26, on "plastics," said all internally illuminated signs and all awnings would be prohibited.
Subsequently, three (now deceased) members of the sign industry -- Bertucci; Kirk Brimley (for whom the International Sign Association has named its highest honor) and Phoenix attorney David Jones -- used USSC and ISA model codes to write some suggested changes. With two minor exceptions, their changes were accepted in total, including a definitions section with more than 60 items. In many sign codes, the definitions are more important that the rest of the sign code. This conclusion is documented in the January 2000 issue of Signs of the Times magazine.