Everywhere There’s Signs

Signs in Kingston
Image used under CC, and with thanks to avlxyz

In case you haven’t guessed it, the topic du jour is signage. Everywhere you look around any/our fair city, you’ll see advertisements on billboards, storefront business signs, electronic lighting displays, event banners, and the list goes on. From the best place to get all you can eat ribs, to deals on cosmetic surgery, and misplaced apostrophes abound, according to the signs and ads we have it all! But for how long? Another new draft bylaw infront of City Council seeks to regulate this type of urban litter as well as other advertising tools throughout the Limestone City. Will this help protect our city streets from being bombarded by advertising, or is it simply another city imposed cash grab?

When it comes to signs, I think we all appreciate the need for regulation and even prohibition. I don’t know how many times I’ve driven past a road-side message board, and noticed that the letters had been re-arranged to spell out humorous and/or lewd phrases. In that regard, the City of Toronto thought that there were better ways to teach swear words to young people, so they banned these types of signs outright. That’s actually putting it lightly, as the the big smoke has pretty strict signage laws, which are (in part) enforced by groups such as IllegalSigns.ca. If passed, Kingston’s signage bylaw would make it necessary to apply (pay an application fee), and have the city rule as to whether or not the location and makeup are acceptable. While there are many pages of provisions, only three types of signs are specifically banned.

  1. Electric Spectacular Signs, which are defined as animated signs that changes more frequently than once every 5 seconds.
  2. Vehicles or trailers parked solely for the purpose of advertising the direction to, or a place of business.
  3. Roof sign or billboard sign in any heritage designated areas or on any heritage designated buildings.

There are also a variety of annexes and schedules that detail rules pertaining to: billboards, construction, real estate, light projection, search lights (is this Gotham City?), roof top and revolving signs, and my personal favorite, sandwhich boards. Although I could say a bit about each one of the aforementioned, I feel pretty passionate about sandwhich boards. Time and again I’ve made my way down Princess Street, only to have these useless signs block my way. Since our downtown streets and sidewalks were designed around the time of the horse and buggy, they are rather restrictive by today’s standards, especially when you stagger wooden a-frames along a narrow walkway that’s bustling with directionless tourists. Thankfully the new bylaw could put an end to this sort of non-sense, but it might go too far with the regulation of balloons – no balloon sign shall be erected for more than fourteen days in any calendar year.

Take a peek at the draft bylaw and let us know what you think. Does this go too far or not enough? Is it simply a cash grab, or do you see it as a waste of taxpayer time and resources.

Harvey Kirkpatrick

Harvey Kirkpatrick is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. His features curiously explore urban planning, what if scenarios, the local food scene and notable Kingstonians. Loves playing tourist and listening to rap music. Learn more about Harvey...

One thought on “Everywhere There’s Signs

  • I think what is needed is regulation to curtail what might be considered intrusive or visually polluting signage – you identified some of it above. The trailer parked at the edge of the property complete with neon green and pink letters advertising some marginal sale of something or other. When a city allows this sort of signage to proliferate, it is sending signals that it doesn’t really care about the image it projects to its residents and visitors.

    cheers, Junior

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