Billboard Mastery Podcast: Episode 66

Tips On Drawing Exhibits

Every billboard lease needs an attachment that shows where the billboard goes. So does every permit application. So how can you best create a winning exhibit to a lease or application – one that gets the job done and helps keep you out of trouble? That’s the focus of this Billboard Mastery Podcast.

Episode 66: Tips On Drawing Exhibits Transcript

Every billboard lease requires an exhibit showing where the site is to go. Every billboard permit application requires an exhibit showing where the billboard is to go. So creating a good exhibit is a really important item. This is Frank Rolfe for the Billboard Mastery Podcast. We're going to talk about creating exhibits to attach to leases and to applications.

So let's first start off with what is the goal of the exhibit? The goal of the exhibit is to provide just the bare minimum you need to get the job done. In the case of the billboard lease, there are typically two exhibits. The first exhibit shows where the sign is to be located, and the second exhibit shows the land that the sign is located on. And the second exhibit is there just in case you have to remove your sign, if your sign has this provision that they can't put another sign on that land without giving you first option. So how do we do that without bringing out a surveyor to try and draw up something that's to all kinds of professional? 

Well, let's start with the exhibit on where the sign goes. You just take an 8 1⁄2 by 11 sheet of paper and you draw a line, horizontal line, and then you mark on that what that road is. It doesn't matter what direction your park is, whether north, south, east, west, it doesn't even matter, and you mark on there what that road is. It might be the highway number, state highway number, just the name of the road. You write that on that. So now we have figured out that this property fronts on that street. Now take and put in your abbreviation for north, typically N, with the circle and the arrow to show where north is in relation to what you drew. But don't try and draw on the sheet of paper based on where north is because things may be upside down, backwards, whatever. So just draw it where the line is, horizontal, name of the street, show where north is.

Then show where the nearest property line is. Are you building this on the right side or the left side of that tract? So where does it go? So if you say, "Well, I'm in that eastern corner," okay, well then draw the line there. And we know that your sign is now kind of in that pocket, and then mark on that property line, and if you know what that thing is on the property next door, put that on there. If the thing next door is a Huddle House restaurant, put Huddle House on the right side of that line so now we know roughly that the location is fronting that road up against the Huddle House. So now you want to put in a couple other items. You have to typically put how far you are from the property line, but that's not really important in your lease. That's only in your permit application.

So what are you gonna do? You want to encumber basically, in a very loose manner, that entire section of the property where it's going to go. Don't be trying to get it to the exact foot. Don't put in there 5 feet from the front and 20 feet from the side because it may not end up there when you're done building it. That's the problem. Back when I had my first signs out on Interstate 30 east of Dallas, there was a guy that built several billboards, but he didn't know what he was doing. So what he did was he thought he was building them all as center mounts. These are all 14 by 48 signs, so about 24 feet in from the end was where the pole was gonna be. But it turned out he had the setback wrong. He thought the city's setback was 5 feet, city's setback was 20 feet. So in the end, he couldn't build those center mount signs, but he already put the poles in.

So he went ahead and made them into full flag signs to account for that greater setback. But the problem then is all of the exhibits he had given the property owners were all wrong. The sign was not within the real rectangle of where he said it would be. They were all overhanging, and by overhanging, they no longer even had the right to be there. So how do you solve that? How do you not do something like that? Don't tie yourself down. In a lot of these exhibits, people want to be very, very particular, very, very precise because we all think that precision is key in life, and in some things it is if you were building a spaceship, but in this case, we just want to have enough in there to show roughly where the sign goes.

So instead, what you'd want to do is you just draw your little triangle of a sign, kind of over there in that quadrant, in that little pocket of the property between the horizontal line with the street name on it and the property line, and then just take a highlighter, like a blue highlighter, and draw a box, an all-encompassing box that is all of the property in that corner, all the way from that which is front of the road, all the way up the side of the neighbors. Make sure it's big enough. You could have two or three or four billboards in that space, because all you're doing is saying, "Here, seller. Here's where I'm building it roughly." See, precision is to their benefit, not to your benefit.

They would like you to say with the exact concrete Swiss-engineered precision where the pole will be, but you can't. You don't really know that till you go out to build the sign. Even if you hadn't accounted for all the setbacks properly and you started to drill down and lo and behold, you hit a big old rock, and you're talking another $5000 or $10,000, or you could move the pole over a little, well, you'd move the pole over. But if you were too precise in what you did, you can't move the pole over because now you've defaulted on your lease. So just think very broad, very basic on those property addendums because that's what benefits you. That way no one can come back later and say, "Wait, you didn't build it in the spot you told me." You'd say, "Oh, yes, I did. Look, that spot I have is giant, it's vast, and I am contained within that spacing."

On the second exhibit, which typically shows the entire property, do the same thing. You've got your horizontal line of the street, you have your boundaries, one on either side. You don't even need where the back boundary is, who cares? You're not gonna build the thing 20,000 feet off the street. And then just take your little blue highlighter and highlight a box there, which just shows the basic property. Now you'll say, "Well, that's not really the property line, isn't straight like that. It's curvy." And it doesn't matter. It's all the property contained on that property. If you want to make it even better yet from the property tax records, put it in the legal description of that property or the tax number of the property so they cannot later say, "Well, that's not the property I thought it was."

Now let's move on to the permit itself. Again, the key is to give them just enough information to get the permit. So what do they wanna know? Well, typically on the permit application, they wanna know a few items. They wanna know the distance from the sign to the next sign down the street. They wanna know setback from the front, setback from the side. In some states, you have to show such things as distance from the on ramp or off ramp. In some states, they're gonna wanna see the distance from the school or the church. But again, it doesn't have to come from a surveyor. If it was done from a surveyor, it would have to be a huge sheet of paper because some of those distances can be 1000 feet or more. If you did it to scale, the sign itself would be the size of a pinhead on that sheet of paper. But the state, typically, they don't need it to that level of precision either.

They just want to know that you cover the basic facts of what they want. And how do you know the basic facts? You need to get a copy of your state's billboard handbook, which you probably get online, or talk to somebody, who ever does the actual permit approvals, as to what they want that exhibit to look like. Because they typically don't want it to have razor precision. They don't need that. They just need to have a certain number of items denoted so they can go ahead and grant the permit. You'll also learn over time what they want because you'll make a filing and they'll say, "Wait, no, this isn't like I want. You were supposed to put on here the setback or you were supposed to put on here the distance to the on ramp." And you learn from that, and pretty soon you're able to do exhibits as good as anybody based on the real life information of what they want.

The key is when you're looking at doing exhibits, you wanna do just the bare minimum to get what you want. Not what the property owners' desires are. Not maybe what the state's desires are completely, but enough to get the job done because you don't wanna put a lot of time and money in it, but you also don't wanna bracket yourself down. You wanna leave things as loose as you humanly can because in real life things happen, and signs do not always end up exactly where you thought. This is Frank Rolfe, the Billboard Mastery Podcast. Hope you enjoyed this. Talk to you again soon.