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No sign of a bylaw just yet

Those little posters, usually tacked up high on telephone poles, advertising junk removal or work-from-home schemes are the clearest targets as Woolwich continues to refine some kind of sign bylaw.

The township has been working on a bylaw for years, reflecting the long-delayed parallel process at the regional level. Now, with Waterloo Region edging closer to its bylaw, the township is trying to get its own document ready for the public input stage. Meeting Tuesday night, councillors had more questions than answers: prohibiting any and all signs on public land, notably road allowances, would be the neatest alternative, but there are legitimate reasons to have signs there.

Which should be allowed and which should be scrapped remains up in the air, however.

With few exceptions, the days seem numbered for portable signs along road allowances. And the proliferation of signs attached to utility poles was universally condemned.

“They bother me more than any other sign,” said Coun. Murray Martin of the latter type, suggesting a fine for each sign. A figure of $150 is being considered.

He was joined in his criticism of those signs by Coun. Mark Bauman, who suggested township staff should be proactive about taking them down. As there’s a cost to produce and erect each of those signs, eventually businesses employing such tactics will find it too costly to keep replacing the signs.

Add in hefty fines and the practice could cease, although councillors acknowledged it isn’t always easy to track down those responsible. The phone numbers for junk removal companies, for instance, often lead to an out-of-town head office rather than the local franchisee, which may have contracted out the advertising.

While the bylaw is still in the draft stages, the township is closer to going to the public for comment, said Christine Broughton, director of council and information services. Most contentious will be the list of prohibited signs, which could include, among others, revolving, flashing and animated signs; inflatable and balloon signs; progressive signs; and most non-accessory signs, signs not on the site occupied by the business itself.

At the regional level, the proposed list of disallowed signs has already come under fire, noted Mayor Bill Strauss.

“There are an awful lot of businesses upset.”

In support of businesses, Woolwich’s sign bylaw should be simple and fair to everyone, said Coun. Ruby Weber, arguing in favour of fewer restrictions.

“If I had my way, there would be no signs … but personal feelings aren’t important.

“We should support business in the township.”

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