Chamber critiques sign bylaw

Special Chamber of Commerce committee presents Cranbrook City Council with 35 recommended changes.

These images from the Chamber of Commerce Sign Bylaw Report depict the height of signage on Highway 3/95 in Cranbrook. The image on the left is the current view of the strip. The middle image shows signage at the proposed six metre height

These images from the Chamber of Commerce Sign Bylaw Report depict the height of signage on Highway 3/95 in Cranbrook. The image on the left is the current view of the strip. The middle image shows signage at the proposed six metre height

The Chamber of Commerce has poured over a new proposed sign bylaw by the City of Cranbrook, and on Monday, February 4, it presented 35 recommendations to council and a packed chambers.

Jason Wheeldon, chair of the Sign Bylaw Committee for the Cranbrook and District Chamber of Commerce, presented a 46-page report to council.

“We recognized this was going to be a contentious issue within the city. Recognizing that controversy does not always bring out the best in public consultation, we asked our members and the business community to work with us through the process to create this report and refrain from providing subjective opinion into the public consultation,” Wheeldon told council.

Last November, city council introduced its draft sign bylaw for first reading, the first time in 35 years the city has considered updating regulations around signage.

The proposed bylaw changes the height and size requirements for signs.

For instance, freestanding signs would only be allowed to be six metres tall, down from 10 metres, if the new bylaw is approved as it is.

This rule is designed to reduce clutter on the skyline through Cranbrook and improve viewscapes.

A number of sign types that exist in Cranbrook at that moment are slated to be prohibited under the new bylaw. These include “day-glo”, fluorescent, and luminous signs, as well as sandwich board signs.

Any existing signs in Cranbrook that don’t meet the requirements of the new bylaw but did have the appropriate permit when they were built will be deemed “legal non-confirming” and allowed to stay. However, if those signs need to be changed or replaced, they would have to comply by the new requirements.

A public hearing held on December 5 had a record turnout, with more than 60 people giving the city feedback on the proposed bylaw.

The Chamber of Commerce formed an ad-hoc committee on November 29 to review the bylaw, and the Chamber board approved the committee’s sign bylaw report on January 18. It was the result of 150 hours volunteered by the committee, which included sign companies.

The report details numerous recommended changes to the proposed sign bylaw.

The most controversial item in the draft bylaw is the regulations for the height of freestanding signs, Wheeldon said.

The committee conducted a survey of Highway 3/95 between Victoria Avenue and 22nd Street North, and noted 40 freestanding signs in that 1.5 kilometre stretch. Of those 40 signs, 31 were higher than six metres and would be deemed legal non-conforming.

“Sign heights has been our major contentious issue. We have heard concerns from members of the public that it blocks the skyline, we need to beautify the city. Of course, these are wonderful ideas that we all strive to achieve. But is sign height really a beautification effort?” Wheeldon said, adding that different zones in Cranbrook should have different height limits.

The report recommends that the size of electronic changeable copy signs be increased to be consistent with the Western Financial Place sign, which is presently larger than the bylaw would allow. The report also requests that city signage be subject to the same sign regulations as business.

“The sign at Western Financial Place would contravene the height, the size of the electronic changeable copy sign, the message speed, animation, third party advertizing and possibly landscaping,” said Wheeldon.

The Chamber recommends the city allow temporary portable signage, sandwich board signage, bill board signage and balloon signage under specific circumstances.

These are just some of the 35 recommendations by the Chamber of Commerce.

“While it is one submission in the public comment period, it should not be discounted as one opinion but that of the entire business community,” said Wheeldon.

“The Chamber took a contentious issue and worked in a constructive manner with the business community to identify the areas of concern in the bylaw and research solutions within other municipal bylaws that would address the business community’s concerns, all with the purpose of providing safety, business identification and esthetics.”

City council accepted the report from the Chamber on February 4 and referred it to staff.

“As I was reading the report, I found myself nodding my head through much of it. I want to thank you for the input and the way you have put it together,” Mayor Wayne Stetski said to the Sign Bylaw Committee.

Cranbrook’s Director of Engineering Jamie Hodge applauded the report.

“There are good solid recommendations that have been tried and found to be very successful in other communities.”1