Portable sign fees stay put, for now

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Council greenlights 14-day grace period for permit renewal

Portable sign users who were hoping for lower fees will have to wait a few more months as the city councillor spearheading such a move postponed the issue until fall.

Coun. Sheena Hughes backed away from her call for lower sign fees at Monday’s council meeting but instead called for a 14-day grace period for sign operators who forget to renew their permit on time.

Council voted 5-2 in favour of Hughes’ motion to offer a chance for permit holders to renew before having to pay a $150 late renewal fee.

Hughes said the penalty is a tough one for small and medium businesses trying to stay afloat in St. Albert.

“I realize that some people don’t like portable signs … but the reality is that (the businesses) need them,” she said, adding that’s why there continues to be a demand for portable signs despite increasing fees.

Hughes postponed other motions addressing the portable and permanent sign permit fees, which she wanted to lower, until the city’s master rates and fees come back in front of council in the fall.

Coun. Cathy Heron said, while she’s never agreed with recent increases to portable sign fees, she wouldn’t support the motion adding a grace period for those who renew late.

“We want to ensure fairness,” Heron said, noting there are businesses that renew on time.

Mayor Nolan Crouse said late fees are a fact of life.

“It’s no different with renting a movie or renting a book, you have an obligation to make note to yourself when you have to pay,” Crouse said.

Both Heron and Crouse noted that in the report given to council, city staff found some applicants were taking advantage of a grace period and there was additional work in encouraging late renewals, so city staff returned to being firm about the date.

Earlier in the meeting, two members of the public spoke to the portable sign motions on the table.

Paul Quantz, chair of the St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce, encouraged council to do a comprehensive review of portable sign issues and not simply make several incremental changes over time.

“Our businesses need to have consistency,” he said.

Greg Pawlechko, operator of the Sign Guru and a member of the Alberta Portable Sign Association, encouraged council to consult with the association on policy.

St. Albert’s fees continue to be out of line with the rest of the capital region, he said.

“It’s absolutely discriminatory what’s going on with our industry,” he said. “Our products exist because there’s a demand for it.”

St. Albert offers permits of up to 90 days. As of 2014, the cost for that permit is $225, a significant increase from $50 in 2008 and $100 in 2010.

Fort Saskatchewan, Leduc, Strathcona County and Edmonton all offer 365-day permits. Edmonton’s year-long permit is the most expensive at $255.

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