Arun Fryer

Arun Fryer

White Rock to mull banner-rule changes

White Rock city staff are proposing loosening the rules for businesses when it comes to hanging banner signs.

An increase in the number of banners a White Rock business can hang in a year and a decrease in the per-banner cost of hanging them are among changes proposed for the city’s sign bylaw.

In a report scheduled to be presented tonight (March 5), staff recommend council approve amendments that would enable businesses to hang up to three banner signs per year, for up to 28 days at a time, at a cost of $25 per banner.

Currently, the bylaw restricts banner-hanging to up to 28 days, once per year, for $75. It became a source of contention last fall, after a Marine Drive business owner was told a banner hanging on his restaurant’s railing was violating the sign bylaw.

The issue led council to call a moratorium on enforcement in late December.

According to a report by the city’s director of planning and development services, Paul Stanton, the issue is “one of potential liabilities” resulting from improper installation and maintenance of signs on city property. The $75 fee, imposed in January 2011 following a review of the previous bylaw, had been intended to deter the practice, Stanton notes.

The latest amendments were devised during a moratorium on enforcing the banner rules that was called in late December.

A review of the bylaw in the months since determined White Rock is not alone in restricting the use of banner signs, Stanton notes. The cities of Langley and Richmond do not permit banner signs; and, Surrey only permits those used by the city and by non-profit and community organizations for special event and fundraising activities.

He adds that businesses recently complaining about White Rock’s restrictions “did not directly participate in the review of the sign bylaw,” and “posted the banner signs without checking with the city to determine whether they were permitted, or under what terms and conditions.”

In addition to increasing the number of banners permitted and reducing the fees, Stanton suggested that the Business Improvement Association be allowed to apply for additional opportunities that benefit multiple businesses for up to 24 days at a time at no cost.

Flexibility is possible, Stanton notes, “provided the businesses work with the city to ensure proper installation and maintenance so (the signs) do not become a liability to the city.”

In asking for council support, Stantion also requested that staff be directed to remove the moratorium on enforcement.

In supporting the recommendations, acting city manager Dennis Back notes there is still “a degree of exposure to the city” when the signs are allowed on city property.

“Through the permitting process, the city at least has the opportunity to advise applicants of the need to ensure proper installation and maintenance, and to require applicants to agree to accept responsibility and liability for the installation and maintenance of the signs plus provide appropriate liability insurance,” Back states.