Weyburn city council requested that administration review the city’s sign bylaw, particularly the parts that relate to portable signs and the fees the city charges for them, after two city businessmen made the appeal to council at their meeting on Oct. 15.
Ken Kot from Fisk Repair, and Don Pokletar from S&D Advertising, appeared at the council meeting to personally make their plea to drop the annual administration fee and go back to a one-time registration fee when a sign is registered with the city.
In a report to council from junior planner Drew Bakken, he found that the city’s bylaw had not been enforced in recent years, with the result there were several portable signs around the city with no sticker, indicating they had never been registered with the city, and many were placed in violation of other city bylaws.
Bakken said only 16 out of 55 signs found when he went out to enforce the bylaw, or 29 per cent, had been issued a portable sign permit. Of the permitted signs, about half were violating the sign bylaw, such as with locations at intersection corners or being on city-owned property.
Of the 39 signs lacking a permit, 17 of them were placed in violation of other regulations of the sign bylaw.
Speaking to council, Kot said they didn’t have an issue with the fee for registering the sign, which cost $40, but they took issue with the annual fee which was $100 per sign per year, “which is rather extravagant.”
He added the fees will make use of the signs difficult or even unfeasible for some people, particularly for use by a charity.
“What we’re proposing is to have a one-time sticker registration, and increase the fees for them,” said Kot, with the removal of the administration fee. “I’m hoping the city will reconsider the bylaw.”
Defending the administration fee, Bakken said with all the enforcement he had to do of unregistered signs, the fee actually only covers about half of the actual cost of enforcement.
In comparing Weyburn’s sign fees with 14 other urban municipalities, he found Weyburn’s was the fifth highest for portable sign fees.
Bakken also quoted a web poll by the Weyburn Review, where 66 per cent of the public feels that billboards and portable signs should be regulated.
Kot pointed out that while the sticker registration fee has been in the city’s bylaw for years, “nobody ever checked to see if there were stickers on these signs. When we first started, they were only checked once in a while; all our signs had stickers, but those who didn’t had no way of finding out.”
Coun. Dick Michel asked, “I’m going to be very blunt. Do you think this is a cash cow for the city?”
Kot didn’t know if he go so far as to call it a cash cow, but allowed it was a “fundraiser” for the city, and added, “We expect as a taxpayer that sometimes tax dollars are going to be spent.”
Asked if he was consulted at all before the newest administration fees were put in ($100/sign/per year), Kot said they weren’t asked.
“We found out in a letter in mid-August that the city was going to implement this,” he said.
Coun. Michel suggested the city should review the bylaw, including the fees; he was told it would take at least a month, or longer, to completely review the bylaw and fees, and come back to council.
In the meantime, said Coun. Rob Stephanson, the bylaw should still be enforced, especially if there are still a large number of signs that aren’t even registered with the city.
“My issue is, why do only 16 out of 55 signs have stickers?” asked Coun. Stephanson.