New Ottawa sign bylaw highlights digital displays

The City of Ottawa is shining the spotlight on a dated sign bylaw, citing emerging technologies as reason for the legislative overhaul.

Digital menu boards, electronic gas pump signs and lit-up indoor window displays will all be legislated if councillors approve the proposed permanent sign bylaw.

Blinking, illuminated window signs are not regulated, but the city has heard concerns about these types of displays, according to a staff report.

But Alex Lewis, executive director of the Bells Corners BIA, says legislating signs inside businesses is a step too far.

"Instead of legislating a homeowner to buy blinds, they’re very quick to legislate businesses (on) whether they should be putting signs in their window," he said. "They may seem like a nuisance to a very small populace, but this is how businesses make their living."

The current sign bylaw is complicated.

Following amalgamation, the city cobbled together 13 different sign bylaws from the old municipalities.

A new bylaw was passed in 2005. Since then, it has undergone a number of patchwork amendments, including legislating murals, digital billboards, and logo signs in business parks.

The city is now trying to keep up with new technology, but staff are worried big, flashy billboards will distract drivers. There’s also the concern that digital signs will stick out like bright eyesores in some neighbourhoods.

The revised sign bylaw also includes restrictions on brightness levels and road setbacks for digital billboards, new size limits for ground signs, and allowing murals in rural and residential neighbourhoods.

This will be before the planning committee on Tuesday. 

This article originally appeared on metronews.ca on July 6.