Commentary

Ticats Highway Sign Could See Overthrow of City-Wide Sign Bylaw

The Ticats sign could be an opportunity for a gateway promoting Hamilton, but is it worth the consequences?

By Joey Coleman
Published June 23, 2014

This could be the end of the City's Sign Bylaw that bans highway and video billboards in Hamilton.

It looks like City Council will be throwing out the City's sign bylaw to allow the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to build a massive electronic advertising sign on City property at the East End water treatment plant that borders the QEW and Red Hill Valley Parkway.

The Ticats will fund the estimated $3-million dollar sign, which will include third-party advertising with a revenue split between the Ticats and the City of Hamilton.

Details will be worked out. The Ticats have told Spectator columnist Andrew Dreschel they hope to have it operational in 2015.

The sign will have City-wide consequences, as it undermines the intent and purpose of the City's Sign By-Law, which prohibits video screen billboards. It also prohibits billboards within 400 metres of the major highways in Hamilton.

Giving the Ticats exception to the bylaw will give billboard companies an opening to successfully appeal the By-Law - meaning Hamilton could see a proliferation of video billboards across our City and along our highways.

To their credit, Pattison Outdoor Advertising openly lobbied City Council at the March 2013 Planning Committee for a change to the Sign By-law.

Pattison presently have an Ontario Municipal Board appeal against the City related to the expropriation of the City Motor Motel. Large rooftop billboards, sure as the ones at the City Motor, are now banned in Hamilton. Existing billboards were grandfathered, Pattison is seeking compensation for the lost of their location.

Pattison's OMB appeal will be significantly strengthen by an uneven application of the sign By-Law by Council.

Why are the Ticats, a for-profit corporation, deserving of multiple exceptions to the By-Law and favourable treatment in leasing City property?

How will Council defend this favourable treatment in an OMB hearing or a full court hearing?

The Ticats sign could be an opportunity for a gateway promoting Hamilton, but is it worth the consequences?

Let the debate begin.

First published on Joey Coleman's website.

Joey Coleman covers Hamilton Civic Affairs.

Read more of his work at The Public Record, or follow him on Twitter @JoeyColeman.

22 Comments

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 23, 2014 at 13:14:44

I've been told that the property owner for the Fortinos plaza on Dundurn offered to let the City build a two-way cycle track connecting Dundurn North with Dundurn South if they can convert the billboard at the southwest corner of Dundurn and King to an electronic sign. They even offered to build a proper walkway under the sign into the parking lot. Apparently staff shut the idea down completely, noting that it would violate the sign bylaw.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 23, 2014 at 19:06:12 in reply to Comment 102796

I'm going to wait for somewhere between 11-35 seconds after the city approves the Ticat sign (which I support, by the way) and fire off a message to council asking them to re-open discussions with Loblaws for the Dundurn cycle track and proper pedestrian entrance. I see nothing wrong with digital signage in appropriate spots and on well-designed signs.
I've always wished the Jackson Square theatres could erect a cool-looking digital board on King St with showtimes. I also recall a proposal a few years back to convert the ugly billboards at King/John into a digital signs. I'm not saying we want to look like Times Square, but clinging to old, outdated bylaws for no reason is a practice we need to stop in the Hammer.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted June 23, 2014 at 13:38:18 in reply to Comment 102796

As somebody who regularly uses that dirt path under the sign, this actually makes me seethe at the Fortinos ownership. I don't like my inconvenience being used as a bargaining chip.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted June 24, 2014 at 22:57:09 in reply to Comment 102799

So then take your business elsewhere. Nations is east, Metro is west. Mustard Seed is northeast. Shoppers is just north.

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By RB2 (anonymous) | Posted June 23, 2014 at 14:07:52

As far as I know the land is owned by Loblaw Companies Ltd. we can come up with a long list of defects endangering pedestrians and those using mobility devices on their property.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted June 23, 2014 at 15:09:30 in reply to Comment 102801

You mean like the lack of any way to walk to the plaza sidewalk from Main other than walking in the driveway? Or that King involves crossing a driveway that looks like an uncontrolled offramp?

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted June 23, 2014 at 14:09:56

I like that our surrounding highways aren't littered with this

There are a few questions I have about this concept. For one is this going on the museum grounds which would be an eye-sore on a beautiful historical site. I'd like to see some photoshopped views of what this might look like and an overhead view of where this is proposed to go.

There are so many alternative things to do in this city aside from attending a game at one stadium.

So I guess First Ontario is next followed by the Casino, Hamilton Place, etc.

Huge advertising for a single coffee shop as well(single business period), when there are hundreds of great local alternatives. This goes back to my argument that the stadium should have a local name like Civic Stadium, and that that name be on the sign and not Tim Horton's. Advertise the city assets, not private corporate tenants/sponsors.

I'd love to discuss some home of the Ticats, Bulldogs, Cardinals, Mauraders, CFHOF, Gage Park, City of Waterfalls, etc. sign at our major gateways perhaps not unlike a Lion's Club type sign.

Something more inclusive and spread out among food, arts, and attractions if we need a sign, otherwise just make the view appealing and inviting enough to want to stop in.

Hamilton - Come on in!

Comment edited by lawrence on 2014-06-23 14:10:53

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted June 23, 2014 at 15:05:18 in reply to Comment 102802

Wait, the Steam Museum grounds?

That's easily one of the prettiest municipal properties in the whole city. They'd better not screw it up for the darned stadium.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2014-06-23 15:05:30

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By Consequences (anonymous) | Posted June 23, 2014 at 14:12:54

"The Ticats sign could be an opportunity for a gateway promoting Hamilton, but is it worth the consequences?"

What are the negative consequences of allowing video screen billboards? Toronto has them along the highway, they don't seem to cause any problems there? I actually kind of like it as your driving in to Toronto, it feels "big city", I'd assume the city must benefit from some revenue, and when I'm driving I can either look at them or pay attention to the radio or something else so they really don't annoy or anything.

Is it an aesthetics thing? I can see how aesthetically speaking video billboards put inside the city proper should especially have to go through some kind of approval so they don't devalue the area around them somehow, but on the side of a highway it's something I just expect to see (and sometimes find useful even). But even video billboards within the city proper can still be pretty nice sometimes - e.g. Times Square.

Surely if the city were to throw out the bylaw they could replace it with something to ensure whatever negative consequences of merely allowing video billboards at all could be minimized.

I'm not trying to say there aren't any consequences or that I'm even for or against the billboard, I'm honestly just curious to know what these negative consequences are for video billboards, or for allowing video billboards in Hamilton more generally speaking.

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By JoeyColeman (registered) - website | Posted June 23, 2014 at 14:33:59 in reply to Comment 102803

The consequence is cancelling the sign bylaw and eliminating the City's ability to regulate video signage.

I'm not opposed to signage, I wish to ensure we have a bylaw that regulates them properly.

Thank you for the opportunity to clarify.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 23, 2014 at 19:08:49 in reply to Comment 102805

perhaps they could do the unthinkable and update the bylaw. I know we love to maintain the same bylaws for centuries on end in Hamilton, but maybe this will force them to make some tweaking.

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By JoeyColeman (registered) - website | Posted June 23, 2014 at 19:28:58 in reply to Comment 102814

Ironically, this bylaw was updated in 2010, after a few years of review.

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By Comment (anonymous) | Posted June 23, 2014 at 16:22:50 in reply to Comment 102805

Approving a variance to the bylaw does nothing to negate/scrap the existing bylaw. With all due to respect, your entire article is based on a false premise.

Put simply, if Council were to approve this unique one-off proposal today, the bylaw would still be in place tomorrow.

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By JoeyColeman (registered) - website | Posted June 23, 2014 at 17:24:01 in reply to Comment 102810

Council must apply exceptions in a consistent manner, they are not allowed to play favourites with bylaws that regular land use and zoning.

If they make the exception for this sign, the reasons for exception must be applied for others seeking similar signage.

Council not granting similar variances is grounds for successful appeal.

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By Comment (anonymous) | Posted June 23, 2014 at 20:18:07 in reply to Comment 102812

Not many other private companies are knocking on the City's door looking to put up a sign with a massive City of Hamilton Logo and the name of a City owned facility for all to see.

Your run of the mill LED sign would not constitute "similar signage" in my opinion. But by all means, correct me if I am missing something here.







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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted June 23, 2014 at 23:03:28 in reply to Comment 102819

Want to take that chance in a court?

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By Consequences (anonymous) | Posted June 23, 2014 at 22:05:53 in reply to Comment 102819

"Your run of the mill LED sign would not constitute "similar signage" in my opinion. But by all means, correct me if I am missing something here."

I am also curious in case Joey Coleman or anybody else knows the answers. Would these not constitute valid exceptions?

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By Comment (anonymous) | Posted June 24, 2014 at 08:32:09 in reply to Comment 102820

To Pxtl, based on the information I have so far, I would not see any basis for a law suit against the City.

Now if FirstOntario (as an example) proposed a similar gateway sign with a massive COH logo and the variance were denied, then they might have a case.

In my opinion, the standard signage you would see on the Gardiner, would not be an apples to apples compare to this sign.

Again, let me know if I am missing something...

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By Consequences (anonymous) | Posted June 23, 2014 at 14:54:21 in reply to Comment 102805

Cool. Hopefully we get that bylaw that regulates them properly, it sounds like that's going to be the solution longer term anyways.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted June 23, 2014 at 20:16:10

Related: The towering video billboard by the Main/New Tim's (across from Zizzo's) has recently been rebranded with a Ticat logo.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted June 23, 2014 at 20:17:39 in reply to Comment 102817

That will have to do until the video signage arrives for the Main/Dundurn & Main/Frid gateway. ;)

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted June 25, 2014 at 11:24:12

Thanks for bringing this issue up, Joey. I've started some internal discussions at the BNA about whether this could open up the door to bigger, uglier, and brighter advertisements in our neighbourhood, which already has its fair share (usually near Beasley's equally ugly and blighting surface parking lots).

We have to do some more research, but if playing favourites for the Ti-Cats is the thin edge of the wedge, then I could see residents being on board with enforcing the 2010 bylaw.

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