New town sign bylaw full of changes

Duane Hicks

With council expected to vote on the new bylaw at its next meeting (Aug. 23), local businesses and residents should be aware of several important changes in store regarding signs in the Town of Fort Frances.
One of the areas covered is how long a business can have a mobile temporary sign on a property.
Under the new bylaw, businesses will be able to put a mobile temporary sign on a property for up to 180 days during a calendar year.
Chief Building Official Rick Hallam, who also is superintendent of Planning and Development, explained this means that businesses can apply for a sign permit in increments of 30 days, 90 days, or 180 days—as long as they only total 180 days in a calendar year.
It does not matter how long one waits in between the permits.
Hallam noted, for instance, that it is possible someone could choose to get a permit for the last 180 days of a calendar year, and then another for the first 180 days of the following year, since these blocks of time would be in two separate calendar years.
Hallam said this “loophole” is intentional as it “allows for the local trade to adapt to the bylaw.”
He noted nearly every other sign bylaw he’s read from elsewhere in the province has a clause that states there must be a period of time (such as 30 days) in between occasions of having a sign up, but members of council decided they didn’t want to do that.
Hallam researched sign bylaws from across the province, and is confident the section of the new bylaw that deals with mobile temporary signs is “the most liberal you’re going to find in the province with respect to the length of tenure a sign may be on a property.”
He added some municipalities only allow for such signs to be up for 90 days, 60 days, 30 days, seven days, or even just five days at a time.
Kenora’s recently-passed sign bylaw states such a sign only can be up for 30 days at a time, but you must have a 30-day period in between permits.
Since a business could put up a sign every other month, that means they could have the sign up for 180 days of the year.
As first reported back in June, Mark Belluz of Belluz Concrete and Rental had requested a 10-month length of tenure, arguing the 180-day limit was too short.
Hallam said the 180-day limit is an attempt to be sensitive to Belluz’s business and allow businesses to have signs up for a good part of the year while, at the same time, “maintain the integrity of the bylaw and keep in step with the rest of the province.”
Temporary mobile signs also have to follow certain conditions, such as:
•the sign must have the name, address, and telephone number of the owner on it;
•the sign must conform to the Building Code Act
•the sign can’t have flashing lights to illuminate the copy on the sign; and
•mobile signs located on residential property only can advertise personal, private events like birthdays (commercial advertising in a residential zone is prohibited).
Hallam said the town will allow the public to have mobile signs on their residential property for three days, with no permit or fee attached, to promote a personal family event like a wedding, birthday, or anniversary.
Mobile signs also will be permitted in all areas zoned commercial, industrial, and institutional, but these require a permit and must follow the 180-day limit per calendar year.
Not more than one mobile sign will be permitted to be located on any lot in Fort Frances. However, one additional mobile sign may be located on any lot or parcel of land having a street frontage of at least 100 metres.
The mobile signs must not be greater than 4.5 square metres in copy display area per side, and not exceed three metres in height measured from the ground to the highest point of the sign, including its structural framework.
This is for safety reasons.
Every mobile sign must be on private property, and must be at least 15 metres from any mobile sign located on the same or adjacent property.
Mobile signs also must be at least 1.5 metres away from any driveway, walkway, or parking space, as well as not less than one metre from a street line (property line).
They also must be 1.5 metres from any permanent sign, and not be within a sight triangle at a corner.
Garage sale signs
Also under the new bylaw, the public will be allowed to post signs for garage and yard sales on utility poles around town.
Hallam explained the existing bylaw always prohibited people from posting garage sale signs around town, but it was difficult to stop people from doing so.
For several years, the town advertised in the newspaper for people to take down their signs after a reasonable time and clean up after themselves. But more often than not, people would not take the signs down afterwards.
This left the town’s bylaw officers and Public Works staff having to do it—at the expense of taxpayers.
Under the new bylaw, the town has now decided to let it happen under controlled circumstances.
The public will be able to legally attach their garage and yard sale signs to utility poles. They can go up two days in advance of the garage sale and must be taken down within three days of the event closing.
If the person who put up the sign does not take it down, the town will take such action as prescribed by the Provincial Offences Act, which may include removing the sign and the cost conveyed to the owner of the property at which the event took place.
“You want to have a garage sale, you want to advertise, the Town of Fort Frances is happy to see you put up your bright pink garage sale signs on the power pole at the corner of your block,” said Hallam.
“But we respectfully request that you remove them no later than three days after the close of that event,” he stressed.
Hallam later added that he “encourages the residents of Fort Frances to do a little soul-searching with respect to the garage sale and yard sale signage that they leave up around town because it’s not only their tax dollars that go into taking it down, it’s everybody else’s tax dollars that goes into cleaning them up.”
“If you’ve got the time and energy to put up the sign, I am sure you’ve got the time and energy to take it down,” he reasoned.
“If that happens, administration in Fort Frances will be very, very appreciative.”
Sidewalk signs
Another area addressed is sidewalk or sandwich board signs, which were not specifically mentioned in the old bylaw.
“We’ve had some issues, not very many, but some issues with those signs over the years, where people want to put out a sandwich board sign in front of their place of business, whether it’s on Scott Street or whether it’s elsewhere in town,” noted Hallam.
“We’ve even had people put them into the parking lanes or parking stalls right on the street, thereby blocking or effectively eliminating one parking stall on the streets of Fort Frances.”
Under the new bylaw, sidewalk signs promoting or advertising daily specials, a sale, or special event at a commercial establishment may not be greater than 1.2 metres in height and .75 metres in width.
They must be placed sufficiently close to the exterior of the building at which the sale is taking place, and at no time may they impede the normal flow of pedestrian traffic.
At no time may a sidewalk sign be placed on the travelled portion of a roadway, the area reserved for parking vehicles, or the boulevard.
They’re also prohibited in residential areas.
Hallam noted council directed for a review of the signage bylaw a few years ago, and over time, the issue and draft bylaw has undergone scrutiny and revisions by council and the Planning and Development executive committee.
“The focus at that time, some of it was complaint-driven,” he remarked. “Complaints about the appearance of temporary, mobile signs and the length of time they were allowed to remain on a property.
“Several members of council had received complaints and I had received complaints—complaints from the public and complaints from several members of council.
“So the time had come to revisit the bylaw, specifically focusing on mobile or temporary signs,” he added.
“In reviewing the bylaw, and it’s a 1978 bylaw, it just occurred to me the bylaw itself was somewhat outdated and not in keeping with the Town of Fort Frances,” Hallam continued.
“Times change, people’s needs change, people’s desires change, and society as a whole changes.”
Hallam then decided to build a new bylaw from the ground up, with the blessing of council.
He consulted bylaws from across the province, including those from Thunder Bay, Kenora, and Dryden, as well as Ottawa, Oshawa, Ajax, Whitby, and Port Colborne, among others, to be better “in step with the rest of the province.”
Hallam encouraged the public to ask at the Civic Centre for a copy of the bylaw once it’s passed and to get familiar with it.
“I think they’ll find that it’s very, very fair and reasonable,” he remarked.
The majority of council gave the nod to a report outlining the new sign bylaw at last week’s regular meeting (Aug. 9).
Couns. Andrew Hallikas, Paul Ryan, Sharon Tibbs, and Rick Wiedenhoeft and Mayor Roy Avis voted in favour of the report while Couns. John Albanese and Ken Perry voted against it.