Askew’s Request for Signage Variance – Some Expectations …

… on the part of the city that should be in place sooner rather than later IMHO.

Askew’s Uptown has applied for a variance to put up a free-standing sign that exceeds the city’s permissible square area size for signs. In addition, Askew’s is seeking an extra (and smaller) information sign on a nearby lot. The application in front of council is on pages 61 -71 of the June 10th agenda here. Askews sign The sign itself exceeds the allowable limit by 48% but if approved would become the fourth largest of the approved variances along the TCH. The Askew’s sign is slated to be 35.6 sqM. The largest permissible signage size in the  code is 24 metres squared.

According to the city data on variances, the Centenoka mall sign is 49.8 sqM, the MacDonalds sign is 45 sqM and the Lakeshore Plaza (Boston Pizza etc.) is 36.2 sqM.

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City staff is supporting the variance for the larger freestanding sign. I do as well but with one set of subject to’s.

In my view, the digital nature of the proposed freestanding sign is as important as the many other regulations and restrictions the city has in place … and we have no bylaws on the books that deal with the issues emerging with these new technologies. I don’t blame the city for that as many jurisdictions are only now just starting to formulate best practices and regulations for digital signage.

But the time is now. In a brief perusal of other jurisdictions, it appears that “brightness, rate of message change or ambient light levels related to the light emissions from digital signs” have all been of concern.

As a local example, there have been times in the past that the OC/Recreation Centre digital sign on Tank Hill has been jarring on the eyes and the brain. To be fair, I haven’t noticed that lately but it does speak to the need for community expectations.   Where do we want these signs, how many of them do we want (another post on that in a bit) and what are our design and regulation requirements?

For the record, I’m a big fan of the ambiance and viewscape offered by colour – especially the old style of neon signage. The historical BowMac tower sign on West Broadway in Vancouver – and even the old neon lights adorning Vancouver’s city hall – were great examples of illuminated landmarks. In some limited online research, this statement from the City of Edmonton summarizes things up nicely.

Digital signs present unique opportunities and challenges to the City.  For example, digital signs have potential traffic safety and urban design impacts.  However, they also offer cost effective advertising options to businesses and non-profit organizations, and can contribute unique urban character to the cityscape.

I personally support Askew’s as a business and appreciate their extensive community involvement. I think that Askew’s can meet and beat the following suggestions for city council.

(1) The city should not permit any new digital signage – of any significant size – until a workable modernized bylaw is in place. This in itself might require the city to adopt an interim position and to expedite the development of a bylaw. Perhaps interim guidelines could help with any proposals in the works. … with an expectation that any new signage would meet the final requirements.

(2) Given the likeliness of customability of digital products now-a-days and Askews’ track record as a responsible community business, grant them the variance subject to fully meeting the upcoming regulations.

(3) Require already-installed digital signage to come as close as possible to whatever the to-be-developed guidelines are. Essentially they would be grandfathered if they can’t meet the tech requirements. Any replacement signage would be subject to the new regulations.

(4) The development of a ‘digital’ signage bylaw could also be an opportunity to discuss an overall approach to ‘signage in the city’.

signage cluster

Your thoughts as a sign of the times?

Author: Tim Lavery

Aim High Salmon Arm It matters

6 thoughts on “Askew’s Request for Signage Variance – Some Expectations …”

  1. As usual…first we do as we please and THEN we ask for permission to do it. I find these LED signs rather distracting and ugly to boot. But since the neighbours are doing it, so do we.

  2. Another example of visual clutter yelling for attention and ignoring the possibility of delivering an emotionally engaging message that stimulates the mind.

  3. Less is a better sign according to the experts in wayfinding, or environmental graphic design.

    Great story here from the Atlantic on wayfinding.

    Our challenge (and opportunity) as a community is to develop persuasive visual clues that can include public art, lighting, landscaping that lead people to where they want to go. Obstructing a view will send a message but it does not enhance the end user experience.

    As for Askews, for me, that building is a landmark structure and a giant sign will obstruct my appreciation of its architectural importance and, as a result, diminish my customer experience.

    In the Atlantic article, Labouvie, the expert, says. “I do signage and wayfinding, but the less signs one needs the better.”

  4. I agree with Louise about a sign’s obstructing the building’s appearance. However, having said that, I’m wondering about putting the sign (or two signs – one pointing east and one, west) in a tasteful way on top of the building rather than in front of it. (Thinking a bit of the tower at Picadilly Mall). That way, landscaping can occur at ground level on the south side of the new store.

  5. I think these back lit signs are a huge eyesore, making the TCH look chintzy throughout the town. There are great examples in BC of modernized sign bylaws where the signs are wooden, bottom lit externally. I don’t think signs should be the attraction to locals and tourists when they travel down the highway. They aren’t attractive. They are ugly. They outdate quickly. They fade. They are a sign of our petro-past. It’s time to move forward.

    We aren’t Vegas baby…

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