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Calgary shifts strategy to handle problem road signs

Thousands of non-compliant signs in Calgary, city bylaw reports, however only 60 fines in 2022.

Ward 5 Coun. Raj Dhaliwal has suggested a name change for the area he represents.

“Ward 5, I should I think it should be called Ward signage,” he said during questions on changes to the city’s temporary sign bylaw that would see enforcement duties changed and fines increased for offenders.

The item came to the city’s Executive Committee Wednesday after administration was tasked with finding solutions to roadside sign proliferation.

Administration’s plan is to shift the duty of responding to and managing temporary signs on Calgary roadways to the city’s Mobility unit, specifically boulevard maintenance crews. It also proposes increasing fines to $300 for a first offense, with it doubling and tripling for subsequent infractions.

“Mobility’s capacity to provide a consistent level of boulevard maintenance using their existing field operation resources will significantly reduce the visual clutter caused by illegally placed signs,” the admin report read.

City crews will now identify non-compliant signs by removing them. They can also forward complaints to peace officers for further investigation.

Councillors heard that despite thousands of non-compliant signs annually, there were only roughly 60 fines issued under the bylaw last year.

Still, by shifting the responsibilities, Chief Bylaw Officer Ryan Pleckaitis said they can focus on repeat and problem offenders.

“We can really target our enforcement against those who continually are breaking the rules around the placement of time and do a much better job of removing a lot of the illegally placed signs that have been sitting on our boulevards for a significant amount of time,” he said.

Roads director Troy McLeod said they’ve also been experimenting with artificial intelligence to detect with photo technology potentially illegal signs – similar to what they see with potholes. As that information is collected, it will be sent to maintenance crews.

“This is a focused effort because there’s already existing crews and enforcement occurring in these areas,” McLeod said.

“This is just an addition to their current routing that they already undertake.”

Steps should help, but hope isn’t a strategy, says councillor

Coun. Dhaliwal said there’s a massive problem in his ward, where hundreds of signs line certain boulevards in the area, creating visual clutter.

The Ward Signage councillor submitted an amendment to include a success measurement for these new rules.

“I just want to make sure that we have something measurable, including, but not limited to, success rate,” he said.

“If we can measure them, we can make changes and improve things.”

While Dhaliwal is hopeful that the shift in responsibilities will achieve better results, he said that shouldn’t be a strategy.

“Hope shouldn’t be a strategy. But, now residents can only hope for better.”

Ward 11 Coun. Kourtney Penner said it was good to see this come forward as a solution that tackled a problem and didn’t require more budget resources. While it’s not the perfect fix, it’s struck a reasonable balance in addressing advertising needs for small business and visual pollution.

“This is the recognition that we have mobility working alongside community standards and bylaw to come up with a creative solution that helps us address the problem and tackle the problem, essentially, with zero budget,” he said.

Ward 1 Coun. Sonya Sharp said that this solution appears to address the problem they raised a year ago. Still, she wants to ensure that they learn more over the next year with this plan.

“I think what’s important is to outline what the success has been, and maybe what the learnings have been as well,” she said.

“Because one of the things that I just don’t want to hear maybe in a year from now is your road crews in mobility need enforcement.”

A report on this change will come back in Q4 of 2024.

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