Surrey bylaw zeroes in on ugly, cluttered signs

SURREY – Surrey has made changes to its sign bylaw in an effort to create a more beautiful city.


Surrey Coun. Bruce Hayne said amendments to the Surrey Sign By-Law No. 13656 were approved by council late last year, and the city is now looking to educate businesses before it starts handing out tickets.


The changes are intended to reduce red tape and to enhance the city’s streetscapes.


Most of the amendments deal with unsightliness, Hayne said.


"So, flags, banners, bouncing gorillas, all of that stuff. And then multiple signs in windows, for instance, covering up almost the entire window of a premise, we’ve reduced the percentage of windows that can be covered by signage, we’ve reduced the number of second-storey signs on a building and so on, just to try to reduce sign clutter in the city."


Hayne said sandwich boards, for example, are not allowed on public property.


"They can’t be on sidewalks, they have to be on the proponent’s property," Hayne said. "So mostly it’s a beautification issue for the city. And a lot of the signs were illegal before, but we’ve sort of clarified things more and made things more clear in the bylaw."


When asked if the bylaw will target "ugly" signs, Hayne said yes.


"That is more discretionary with the planning department and that’s where it becomes a little tricky because to one planner something’s ugly and to somebody else it’s not…. There’s got to be discretion there."


Hayne said Whistler Village is an example of attractive, fair signage.


"You walk around the village and everybody has very, very controlled signage. It’s elegant, there’s not a single business you can’t find and everybody’s on a level playing field."


And that’s what he wants to see in Surrey. To get there, Hayne said the city plans to zero in on problematic business sectors.


"Real estate is a big one for us. Gas stations and convenience stores are a big one for us. Some of the retail, like the furniture industry, is another one for us. And home-based businesses where people are putting up massive signs on houses and things like that in residential areas. There’s no problem having a home-based business, but you can’t take the entire upper floor of your home and wrap it with a thing that says accounting. That’s just not fair to your neighbours."


While the main focus is on business sectors, Hayne said there are some geographical spots the city will focus on, such as sections of 128th Street and Scott Road. But before the city begins handing out tickets, it will be rolling out an education campaign, Hayne said.


"We want to get the word out to the business community. So we’re doing some brochures and a video to go on our website and things like that, to support it, just so the business community understands the new bylaw is here and in place, and that there are new rules and regulations," Hayne said. "At first, we’re going to try to do things in a communicative and co-operative style, but if there’s still persistent violations then we’ll start to crack down."


Hayne went on to say that signs are not the city’s most pressing issue right now.


"But I think it’s something that needed to be addressed," he added. "It just goes to the whole beautification of the city and it’s just one of the things we can be doing."


Last year, in an effort to clean up Scott Road, Delta council barred certain businesses from its side of the street.


Porn stores, cash for gold shops, chequecashing centres, dating and escort services, gun shops, massage parlours, pawnshops, private smoking clubs and tattoo parlours were all banned from hanging out their shingle along the Delta side of Scott Road.


Delta Mayor Lois Jackson said at the time that Surrey’s side of the road could also use a facelift.


"I’m not impressed with the Surrey side of Scott Road," Jackson said last April. "It’s like a forgotten part of Surrey."


Visit to find the amended bylaw. With files from Tom Zytaruk

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