Rules governing the number of portable signs on properties are to be lifted for some commercial businesses once city staff draft a bylaw for that purpose.
Councillors agreed on Dec. 4 to lift a rule limiting businesses city-wide to having two portable signs to a maximum of two signs per site. The rule passed on Sept. 5 as part of the previous council’s effort to overhaul all city sign regulations, which are governed by the land use bylaw.
Prior to Sept. 5, the two-sign maximum only applied to general commercial, regional commercial and corridor commercial zonings, much of which are along St. Albert Trail. Businesses in commercial and industrial service (CIS) zones, integrated care community (ICC) zones and neighbourhood commercial (C1) zones – most of which are in Riel or Campbell – could have unlimited signs as long as they maintained a distance of 30 metres between signs.
Development officer Chelsea Thompson said the changes were intended to level the playing field for businesses city-wide and address aesthetics and clutter.
While sign companies were able to give their input on sign regulations in 2016, they were not independently engaged or informed of the proposed changes once the draft regulations went to council for public hearings and bylaw readings in 2017. Instead, the city used its normal methods of City Lights and social media to advertise the draft regulations.
As of Dec. 4, there were 81 active portable sign permits in St. Albert on 65 different land parcels. Three properties were affected by the Sept. 5 amendment.
Two of those properties belong to portable sign company Sign Guru on Carnegie Drive. Greg Pawlechko, a representative of Sign Guru, condemned the lack of consultation during a presentation in council chambers.
“I was quite annoyed and frustrated that we were blindsided, and that’s wrong. I can’t say how disappointing and wrong that process is,” Pawlechko said.
He said he wants to see the city change that process so administration involves all stakeholders going forward.
Since Sign Guru has two parcels of land, the bylaw change limited the number of signs on Sign Guru’s properties from six to four, costing the company between $4,000 and $5,000 per year. That’s because Sign Guru rents out its signs to other companies for advertising.
Coun. Sheena Hughes said the sweeping overhaul of sign regulations involved numerous changes and described this particular change as one that “slipped under the radar.”
She said walking back the regulation on portable signs would allow businesses that rely on such signs to stay afloat.
“When we do changes like this, we’re affecting people’s livelihoods because we’re affecting their ability to actually generate the revenue they require so they can stay in business,” she said.
Councillors passed a motion in a 6-1 vote to amend the land use bylaw in order to change the regulations back to the way they were before Sept. 5, but had to rescind that motion because changes to the land use bylaw require an amending bylaw. A second motion to have administration draft that bylaw passed 6-1 with Mayor Cathy Heron voting against it.
Heron said she felt there was plenty of public engagement around the bylaw changes and she agreed with the reasoning of limiting sign clutter in the city.
The bylaw amendment will come to council in the future for review.