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New sign bylaw to attempt making regulations ‘user-friendly’

There are a whole new set of rules pertaining to signs in the Sign Bylaw that the city is currently considering adopting — Photo: City of Nelson

Signs will not be blocking up the scenery or changing anyone’s mind under the new proposed city bylaw.

In fact, there are a whole new set of rules pertaining to the form and function of business signs in the city in the Sign Bylaw — which recently passed third reading at the city council level. But the intent is to streamline the parameters and make the legislature “user-friendly,” as well as improve the look of downtown city streets, noted city senior planner Sebastian Arcand.

The new bylaw covers types, dimensions, maintenance and placement of signs, and details which signs are prohibited.

The principal purpose of the proposed bylaw is to regulate all types of signage on private property and within the street right-of-way of the city by providing “unified and consistent regulations for their design, construction and installation,” said Arcand in his presentation to city council.

How would the proposed bylaw regulate the deteriorating condition of some building awnings in the downtown, asked Coun. Jesse Woodward when the bylaw was first presented, and could the city force them to maintain them.

Arcand said there was some legislation dealing with maintenance and the city could require a business to improve or remove an unsightly awning.

He also hinted that some legislation will be forthcoming later this year dealing with the offering of city incentives to improve downtown structure façades.

“We want to be proactive in offering incentives to businesses to renovate and maintain their store fronts,” Arcand explained.

Arcand noted that temporary signs will no longer be permitted. A temporary sign means a sign which is not in a permanently installed or affixed position, advertising a product or an activity on a limited basis.

However, relaxation of the bylaw provisions for a special event is available, if the proposed sign is in relation to a special event.

Freestanding signs will only be permitted if the building is set back from the street, said Arcand, and that there is room for it and it doesn’t take away from the streetscape.

“If we allow them in the downtown we want to make sure they are not just a square sign on a post, that there is some design element,” he said.

Coun. Keith Page asked about signs that contravened the proposed bylaw — like the Hume Hotel’s rooftop sign — and what would happen to them.

“It is iconic,” Arcand said about the Hume sign, “and the iconic part of it is it’s the only (rooftop) one.”

A new rooftop sign would have to come to council for approval on a variance. 

“But any sign that is lawful at this point in time will be grandfathered; moving forward, all new signage will have to apply to this bylaw,” Arcand said.

And any changes to existing signs will likely be subject to the proposed bylaw as well, he added.

Signs not expressly permitted in the bylaw are deemed prohibited and include:

  • signs with electronic moving copy;
  • signs with electronic static copy;
  • any commercial pennant, ribbon, streamers, or spinner sign or other moving, fluttering device;
  • any inflatable signs;
  • any sign incorporating a searchlight, strobe light, flashing lights or emit sounds or be interactive in any way;
  • any signage emitting excessive light over the property line.
  • any sign mounted on or supported by a balcony, fence or other similar structures;
  • billboard signs;
  • portable signs;
  • roof signs;
  • third-party signs;
  • signs affixed to utility poles or trees;
  • signs on a street, other than those approved through an encroachment agreement or sandwich board signs; and
  • any sign on a vehicle or trailer used primarily as a static advertising display but not the vehicle is used in the normal operation of the business.

Any sign that is deemed to be “amateurish” or not professionally designed is also prohibited, said Arcand.

The sandwich board debate was also resolved in the bylaw. Although some people complained that the sandwich boards “cluttered” the downtown streets, there were many people and business owners in favour of them.

“Until we can come up with some sort of wayfinding strategy, we feel it is important to keep them,” he said.

Under the terms of the bylaw, the boards need to be well designed and are not to impede pedestrian circulation.

Public notification of this bylaw is not required however, business owners affected by changes under this bylaw have been consulted.