Board of Building Standards (BBS) / Architectural Board of Review (ABR) / Sign Review Board | The City of Lakewood, Ohio
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Board of Building Standards (BBS) / Architectural Board of Review (ABR) / Sign Review Board


  • New construction or renovation projects that are visible from the public right-of-way and/or commercial signs must obtain approval from the ABR/Sign Review Board prior to obtaining permits from the Building Department.
  • It is recommended that projects requiring ABR/Sign Review obtain that approval before submitting for Building Department plan review/permitting. This is to avoid having to resubmit new plans to the Building Department should any design changes occur during the ABR/Sign Review process. 
  • Additionally, if the project requires a conditional use approval from the Planning Commission (PC) or a variance from the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA), those should be obtained before beginning ABR/Sign Review.
  • Please review the documentation needed when submitting for the Sign Review Board by clicking here.

Applicants are highly encouraged to discuss their proposal with Planning & Development prior to applying for Board review.  An initial discussion can help clarify what approvals are required and streamline the best path forward.  Any questions related to Planning Commission, Board of Zoning Appeals, or ABR/Sign Review should be directed to Planning & Development at or 216-529-6630.

Architectural Board of Review Basics

The Architectural Board of Review (ABR) serves to “protect the value, appearance and use of property on which buildings are constructed or altered, to maintain a high character of community development, to protect the public health, safety, convenience and welfare and to protect real estate within the City from impairment or destruction of value.”

The City Charter and Code provides the Board the authority to review:

  • New construction and renovation work on existing buildings which alters exterior elevations, including the painting/treatment of previously unaltered masonry (per Chapter 1325).
  • Sign proposals (per Chapter 1329).
  • Appeals to building code decisions by the Building Commissioner (per Charter Article 7.4).

The Board has broad review authority, but typically limits its purview on new construction and renovations to those proposals that are visible from the public right-of-way.  Within each proposal, the Board’s authority encompasses the design, use of materials, finished grade lines, dimensions, orientation and location of all main and accessory buildings to be erected, moved, altered, remodeled, or repaired.

In reviewing proposals, the Board uses:

  • Accepted and recognized professional architectural principles.
  • City design guidelines and standards (see design standards drop-down menu on right)
  • The development of adjacent, contiguous, and neighboring buildings and properties for the purpose of achieving safe, harmonious, and integrated development of related properties.

Applying for ABR and/or Sign Review, in four steps:

Step 1:  Know when the application deadline is and prepare all proposal materials in advance, so it is complete and submitted on time.

In preparing your proposal, it is important to understand existing City guidelines (front porch, commercial districts, outdoor dining, etc.) and for sign proposals – what is permitted and not permitted under the City sign regulations (Chapter 1329).

As you prepare your proposal, click here to view the meeting calendar and anticipate the best month to submit your application once you have all the required documents to support review.

Architectural Review Proposals (New Construction/Renovation) should include the following:

  • Scaled Site Plan that details elements of the proposal and depicts adjacent properties/uses.
  • Photos of Existing Conditions that documents the current state of the property/project area.
  • Design documents including scaled elevations, sections, and perspectives of proposal.
  • Intended Materials including example photos and/or material manufacturer’s cut sheets.

Sign Proposals should include the following:

  • Scaled Site Plan that details elements of the proposal and depicts adjacent properties/uses.
  • Photos of Existing Conditions that documents the current state of the property/project area.
  • Design documents including dimensions of all proposed sign elements and building elevations that show the exact placement of each sign.
  • Intended materials for each sign element including examples photos and/or material manufacturer’s cut sheets.
  • Information on sign illumination (if proposed)

Step 2:  Apply for ABR (New Construction/Renovation) or Sign Review Board (Signs).

All applications are submitted via the online CitizenServe portal, which can be accessed here:

Board of Building Standards/Architectural Board of Review/Sign Review Application

Once in CitizenServe, click on the “apply to Architectural Board of Review” and complete the online application which includes attaching your supporting files (site plan, photos, design documents, and intended materials).  If this is your first time using the portal, you’ll need to quickly register first.

Of note, property addresses within CitizenServe are those associated with the parcel/property records.  Sometimes, in order to enter an address for a storefront or other location that has multiple addresses within a single building, the applicant will need to use the County property website to locate the primary address associated with their building’s parcel at:

Once the address is entered, the applicant should be able to which category their application falls under:

  • Commercial – Building
  • Commercial – Sign
  • Residential

For commercial building applications that also include signage, the applicant will need to submit two separate applications (one for ABR covering the building improvements and one for Sign Review).

To ensure your application is complete, please upload all required elements for the proposal before submitting the application.

Step 3:  Attend meeting(s), present your proposal, and work with the Board towards gaining approval.

Once your application has been submitted, you will receive an email with information on the meeting dates/times and recommendations (if any) to help ensure your proposal is appropriately prepared for Board review.

The Board conducts a pre-review meeting on the first Thursday of each month.  Not every applicant is required to attend the pre-review meeting, which is typically reserved for more complex or larger scale/scope proposals.

The formal review meeting is held the second Thursday of each month.  Each applicant must plan on attending this meeting in person for the proposal to be heard/discussed.

For new construction and proposals of larger scale/scope, it may take more than one meeting for the Board to fully consider the proposal.  Given their consideration of architectural principles and City guidelines/standards – the adjacent and neighboring buildings provide important context for applicants to understand and reference as part of their proposal (for the purpose of achieving harmonious and integrated development).

Applicants may be required to update and submit new plans – this enables a more efficient approval process and transition of the approved plan to the Building Department’s plan review/permitting process.

Step 4:  Given Board approval, complete Building plan review and permitting (and any other Board/Commission requirements, if needed).

Once approval is obtained from the ABR/Sign Review Board, applicants can then complete the building code plan review and obtain construction and/or installation permits from the Department of Building and Housing.

If the proposal still requires a conditional use or variance approval, that also must be obtained before permits will be issued.