If approved, a new bylaw covering signs on private property will replace the current “dated” version that did not allow digital signage, staff stated, except in special cases.
Some of the proposed regulations, contained in a report going before the city’s planning committee next Tuesday, include:
- Allowing stand-alone signs only (meaning that digital billboards stuck to walls would not be permitted, without a variance);
- A minimum static time of 10 seconds between messages;
- Allowing static images only, and no “transition effects” between messages;
- Nighttime brightness magnitude that is the lowest in Canada;
- Permits for five years, similar to conventional signs;
- Banning signs from areas such as heritage districts, rural areas and hydro corridors;
- Regulated setbacks from roadways, residential zones, open spaces, other digital billboards and areas such as villages. These range between 100 metres and 500 metres, depending on the type.
Suggested permit fees for digital billboards will be $2,500, compared to $1,800 for conventional billboards. Staff state that 22 of the city’s 393 billboards are eligible for digital conversion.
The new suggested policy, which was reviewed at the request of local businesses, is intended to increase opportunities for city revenue and delivering public information, but it will also give “clear business advantages” for those firms that want to use them, a staff report to the planning committee read.
Business advantages, the report stated, include reduced costs related to printing signs and their maintenance, more flexibility for advertising, and the ability to change messages easily and increase revenue opportunities for sign owners.
“The ability to target advertising is not only favourable to businesses, but also to consumers in general, who stand to benefit from reduced redundancy in advertising and more precise information,” added the report.
Digital signs are used in limited form in the national capital.
In Ottawa, the Ikea building has a digital sign that the city approved under a variance. The city was also considering an application for a digital wall sign on the Ottawa Convention Centre prior to the centre’s decision to suspend the project in April 2012.
Council approved a pilot project in August 2010 to examine the feasibility of implementing digital billboards in Ottawa. In March 2011, a contractor installed four stand-alone digital billboards at three locations in the city: Tremblay Road and St. Laurent Boulevard, Carling and Kirkwood avenues, and Carp Road, southeast of Highway 417.
The number of collisions at these intersections - after the billboards were installed - were consistent with 2010 and slightly higher than the 10-year average, staff stated.
The city consulted with local business improvement associations and launched an online questionnaire intended to ask about reactions to the signs, and suggestions for improvement.
As part of the pilot project, staff reviewed the policies for other municipalities regarding digital signage. In general, these municipalities have regulations that limit the signs to certain areas of the city, regulate the brightness and setbacks, and have a minimum “dwell time” to allow people to read the messages. Some require digital signs to be shut off late at night.
A literature review of academic papers was also performed for information about driver distraction and traffic safety.
The planning department will next review the policy around 2015, if warranted, states a recommendation in the report.