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The Town of Essex Council Special Meeting

Removal of abandoned signs and accessible parking bylaws discussed

by Sylene Argent

On the evening of Tuesday, August 6, Essex Council hosted a special meeting at the Essex County Civic and Education Centre to discuss abandoned signage and accessible parking.  

  During the meeting, Council received the presentation from the Planning Department on the Sign Bylaw.

  A large portion of the meeting’s discussions centered around the Town’s Community Improvement Plan (CIP) – which is a municipal grant mechanism to assist businesses in an array of projects, and whether or not businesses should be allowed to use CIP funding to remove signs from businesses no longer in operation.

  In the report to Council, the Planning Department recommend revisions to the Sign Bylaw to address signage advertising or identifying an activity, business, or service that has ceased, rendering the sign unnecessary.

  The report notes there are a number of signs identifying businesses that no longer occupy the building or otherwise indicate an activity or service no longer offered. The purpose of the report, and subsequent Council discussion, was to identify steps that should be taken to neutralize abandoned signs.

  As well, some signage was deemed to be in poor physical condition such that, while not posing a hazard, it was aesthetically displeasing and, being unattractive, it negatively affected the surrounding businesses and streetscape, the Report to Council notes, as Bylaw 1350 does not address abandoned signage that do not pose a hazard.

  Through the report, the Planning Department noted that for properties situated in a Community Improvement Project Area, the $2000 mini grant under the Façade Improvement Grant Program is available to assist with the removal of inappropriate, abandoned, and outdated signage.

  Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche believed the CIP funds should be used to remove abandoned signs as the first step in encouraging business owners to remove signage from former businesses and encourage new signs as part of the process.

  Several Councillors, including Councillor Sherry Bondy, voiced concerns with using CIP funds to allow for the removal of the signs as the program is intended to stimulate growth. However, Bondy said she could be in favour of using CIP funds for this if there was a time limit the business owner has to have the sign removed.

  Mayor Larry Snively voiced concerns that there are some businesses owners that will not talk to the Town in regards to sign removal, no matter what the Town does.

  Amendments suggested through the report to Council included incorporating new definitions to the Bylaw and that the owner of the land on which an abandoned sign is located shall, within 15 days of the giving of notice by the By-law Enforcement Officer, remove the sign or, at the discretion of the By-law Enforcement Officer, shall alter the sign face area to delete or otherwise hide from view text and pictures referencing the discontinued activity, business, or service for which the sign was placed, installed.

  Meloche put forward a motion directing administration to move forward with the proposed Sign bylaw amendments and the drafting of a proposed amending Bylaw, and to also proceed on the recommendation to use CIP program incentives to serve as the first step in encouraging business owners to remove signage for former businesses and encourage new signs as part of the process. Council passed this motion.

  The second portion of the meeting dealt with the potential introduction of the Accessibility of Ontarians with Disabilities Act accessible parking space provisions. The number of accessible parking spaces is higher under the Act then in the Town’s General Zoning Bylaw, in addition to other changes.

  The Planning Department suggested having the Town’s Zoning Bylaw and Sign Bylaw incorporate the regulations of the Act as it relates to the provision of off-street parking.

  Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche said he was sure if the Province made these recommendations through the Act, studies would have been conducted to conclude best practices.

  Councillor Chris Vander Doelen worried over-enforcement, or creating more accessible spaces than needed, would result in those not needing to utilize accessible spaces would have a harder time finding parking.

  Jeff Watson, Essex’s Policy Planner, said in the past, the Town has contacted the Town’s Accessibility Committee for comments on projects as to whether more or less accessible parking spaces should be implemented depending on the use of the facility.

  Chris Nepszy, CAO, noted that creating accessible spaces can be more difficult than just putting up a sign. Sidewalks may need to be rounded out to accommodate, in addition to removing curbs.

  The AODA also divides accessible parking spaces into two types: one of which is 3.4m in width with an access aisle of 1.5m, next and parallel to it, to serve vans; and the other includes a width of 2.4m, with an access aisle of 1.5m next and parallel to it, to serve persons in standard vehicles

  According to the Town’s General Sign Bylaw, each accessible parking space must be identified by a reserved parking sign, however, the comprehensive sign bylaw, does not set out this requirement.

  Council received the Report.

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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