On Monday evening, Sault Ste. Marie City Council voted in favour of passing its new sign by-law in a vote of 8 to 5. The new sign by-law is extensive and is going to impact virtually every type of outdoor signage used by small businesses, from portable signs to digital, from storefront awnings to billboards.
Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce CEO Rory Ring was one of several presenters on hand that evening. While the Chamber feels that the majority of the by-law is a reasonable accommodation to conflicting interests, one issue that remained a concern to the Chamber as the by-law went before Council was the section specific to portable signs.
The Chamber’s primary recommendation to Council on Monday evening was to adopt the new by-law but maintain the current by-law’s section specific to portable signs for a two-year period, allowing time to strike a committee to assess the impact of the by-law and engage the Sault’s tourism sector.
The Chamber met with the City during the course of the development of the sign by-law, representing the interests of its member businesses, and feels that a lot of good discussion was held and compromises made by both sides during the process.
The Chamber is however disappointed that consensus could not be reached to take a measured approached to the single section of the by-law that has potential to negatively impact many local small businesses by placing restrictions on where portable signage can be placed, limiting the duration of permits and restricting third party advertising.
The Chamber recognizes that marketing is not a one-size-fits all effort and portable signage remains a viable, cost-effective and proven means of messaging for many businesses.
With the by-law now passed, it is incumbent upon the City to ensure that every sign user is made fully aware of the implementation timetable and how these changes will impact their business so that users can plan with as little disruption as possible for their clients and employees. Time is of the essence and the Chamber is committed to working with the City to ensure that specifics included in the new By-law are communicated to local businesses and to those that will be affected / impacted.