Cluttered sign bylaw receives some housekeeping changes

SURREY – In the attempt to reduce cluttered signage in problem business districts, the City of Surrey is first focusing on cleaning up bylaws governing them.

Surrey Council passed first, second, and third reading on Monday (Sept. 29) to some housekeeping amendments of Surrey’s Sign Bylaw 13656 that will simplify and clarify the signage bylaws.

Coun. Bruce Hayne said the city’s bylaw enforcement officers, as well as the planning department, needed a little more clarity about the rules surrounding comprehensive corporate sign packages.

Major changes to the signage bylaw–which was first amended on July 29, 2013–were made to reduce clutter of signage in the city, allow for comprehensive sign packages to be streamlined through the planning and approval process, and to help beautify the city.

Hayne said the housekeeping changes allow bylaw enforcement officers to determine whether businesses in "problem areas" are in compliance.

"The language of the signage bylaw was simplified, so there’s less ambiguity," he said.

Bylaw officers have been in an ongoing period of communication and education with the business community, rather than enforcement and fines. Hayne said the city is working with business associations like the Surrey Board of Trade, the Indo-Canadian Business Association, and business improvement associations, to educate people about the changes.

As well, when businesses get their license renewed at City Hall they will receive information to help make signage changes, if necessary.

"Because this isn’t about making it more difficult to do business or to impose fines and sanctions and things like that," said Hayne. "This is about wanting to create a level playing field for the business community through a simplified sign bylaw."

Most of the amendments deal with unsightliness, such as flags or banners in windows, or sandwich boards on public property and sidewalks. Real estate, gas stations, convenience stores, furniture stores, and home-based businesses have been cited in the past as the worst offenders for ugly signage.

While the main focus is on business sectors, there are some geographical spots the city will focus on, such as sections of 128th Street and Scott Road. Last year, in an effort to clean up Scott Road, Delta council barred certain businesses from its side of the street. Delta Mayor Lois Jackson also had some choice words for Surrey’s side of the border, saying she was "not impressed" and that it could use a facelift.

Hayne said the signage bylaw changes will have the desired effect, but might take some time.

"It’s a little bit early, there certainly have been some changes coming along," he said.

Following the education campaign, fines for non-compliance will run around $150, and the city will have the right to confiscate any illegal signs on public property.

–with a file from Amy Reid/The Now Newspaper

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