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Enforcement is a major hurdle for Calgary sign bylaw changes, committee hears

Roughly 75 tickets have been issued for sign infractions in recent years, said Chief Bylaw Officer, Ryan Pleckaitis.

Councillors said more attention must be paid to the enforcement aspect of Calgary roadside signs, with another suggesting a registry of sorts to manage the ongoing clutter.

Proposed amendments to the city’s temporary sign bylaw came to Executive Committee Wednesday but it was later referred back to administration for more review.

Couns. Kourtney Penner and Sonya Sharp originally asked for a review of the sign bylaw, particularly as it pertained to election signs. They also acknowledged that in many areas of Calgary, business signs have proliferated along the roadside, creating distraction and visibility issues.

Andrew Bissett with the City of Calgary said they typically receive 3,200 service requests (complaints) about temporary signs. The number goes up significantly in election years, he said.

Later, Chief Bylaw Officer Ryan Pleckaitis said they’ve seized 500 signs annually over the past three years.

“When it comes to enforcing issues around illegally placed signage, it’s a challenge,” Pleckaitis said.

“In our business, we have high-priority calls that come in that directly impact public safety. Those will always take priority.”

Chief Pleckaitis said that it’s labour intensive to dedicate a day to driving around “scooping signs” and following up with tickets. They’ve issued roughly 75 tickets in recent years.

“Obviously that’s not having the impact we hoped it would,” he said.

Coun. Jasmine Mian said 75 tickets in a city of more than one million people is evidence enough there are challenges.

“The square footage that this city covers… this is the same reason we have challenges in clearing streets. Just the way we have built this city makes it a very labour-intensive exercise,” she said.

First, you’d have to warn people you’re giving out a lot of tickets, and then litter people with them. She asked about the kind of resources that would take.

Chief Pleckaitis said they hadn’t examined how many more officers they’d need for this.

Provincial election a testing ground

Coun. Penner said a referral doesn’t do anything to help immediately. With an upcoming provincial election, she said there’s an opportunity to test solutions to curb the sign clutter.

“I think it gives us also another opportunity though at data collection and a go at enforcement,” she said.

There’s two parts to the enforcement issue: During elections and then the business signage.

“I think when it comes to election signage, we need to be a little bit more creative and how that gets enforced, especially during those prolific times,” she said.

Ward 10 Coun. Andre Chabot said resources are a big challenge in enforcement.

“The problem is the amount of resources that would have to be thrown at it to be effective, would be almost insurmountable,” he said.

What further exacerbates the issue is that there are dozens of infractions so close together – particularly with election signs, Chabot said.

The problem goes beyond election signs, Chabot said. In Wards 5 and 10, there’s a big problem with illegally placed business signs on roadsides and boulevards. He said they’re up for two weeks and then the owner moves it 10 feet.  He said they’re skirting the law.

He’s suggesting a registry that charges a registration fee and a fee per sign.

“At least there would be a cost recovery mechanism for the enforcement and monitoring of it,” he said.

Coun. Penner said she’d have to weigh the evidence of using a registry system. She also suggested a system like ParkPlus instead of physical human enforcement.

“I think there’s different solutions out there and giving us the time to have that conversation means that we can daylight some of those opportunities and explore how they could be used,”

The referral is supposed to come back in Q3 of 2023.