Permanent Signs on Private Property By-law Review

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Planning Committee will be considering the proposed new Permanent Signs on Private Property By-law at its meeting on Tuesday, July 12, 2016. The staff report on the By-law review and the proposed new By-law will be posted to on July 5. This information can be viewed under City Hall/Council, committee and board agendas and minutes - eAgenda.

What is being reviewed?

The City is reviewing the Permanent Signs on Private Property By-law 2005-439.

Permanent signs identify buildings or properties, provide information on occupants or services offered at particular locations, advertise goods or services, or provide directional information and typically include:

  • wall signs
  • ground signs
  • digital and conventional billboards
  • manual and electronic message centres
  • mural signs
  • signage for ordering at restaurant drive-throughs
  • canopy and awning signs
  • banner signs
  • development signs
  • directional signs

Not all signs are regulated by By-law 2005-439. Permanent and temporary signs beside city roads are regulated by the Signs on City Roads By-law and temporary signs on private property are regulated by the Temporary Signs on Private Property By-law.

Why now?

The current By-law dates back to 2005 when the sign by-laws of the eleven pre-amalgamation municipalities, townships and villages that comprise the new City of Ottawa were consolidated.

Although there have been tweaks and technical amendments to the By-law since then, it is now time to take a broader view to make sure that signs in Ottawa meet key objectives for signage and that the By-law reflects emerging technologies and trends.

What are the objectives for signage in Ottawa?

Three objectives for signage have been identified.

  1. Public Safety – the design, location, maintenance, and operation of signs should not pose a safety hazard for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians.
  2. Good Design and Fit – signs should be compatible with their surroundings, reflect the City's overall planning and design objectives and contribute positively to a liveable built environment.
  3. Economic Development – signs should contribute to the economic well-being of businesses and communities and assist wayfinding.

How can you be involved?

Signs of the Times: An Integrated Approach for Permanent Signs in Ottawa [PDF 1.411 MB ]

This main discussion paper outlines the objectives for signage in Ottawa and poses a number of questions on possible approaches and priorities. Additional issues papers, dealing with more specific topics, are listed below.

New and Emerging Sign Technologies and Trends [ PDF 138 KB ]  

With rapid advances in sign technologies and trends, the new By-law needs to reflect and anticipate the types of signs that will be in demand in the coming years. This paper looks at some of these - including projection signs, interactivity, large banner signs, and gas pump video screens - and invites public input on if and how they can be incorporated into the public realm in a manner that meets the City's objectives for signage.

Digital Menu Boards with Changing Messages [ PDF 123 KB ] 

Digital menu boards with changing messages offer advantages to businesses, but do they pose a public safety hazard and are they compatible with their surroundings? This paper looks at some of the issues raised by these signs, and invites public input on how they might appropriately be regulated.

Window Signs [ PDF 130 KB ] 

The current By-law does not deal with signs on the interior of window frames. However, these signs are oriented towards the outside and, like exterior signs, display messages intended to be viewed by passers-by. Some are distracting to traffic and a nuisance to adjacent properties. This paper discusses the problems posed by these signs and seeks public input on how and whether they should be regulated in the new By-law.

Off-Premise (Third Party) Signs [ PDF 215 KB ]  

The current By-law limits the types of off-premise (third-party) signs permitted in the City. However, as technologies evolve and the City grows, there is increasing demand to allow additional kinds of off-premise signs and to expand the locations they can be placed. This paper invites public input on the advantages and disadvantages of off-premise signage and whether it is consistent with the City's objectives for signs in the public realm.

Distinctive areas [ PDF 230 KB ]  

There are areas of Ottawa that are distinctive in their nature and use. They may warrant different (more restrictive or less restrictive) sign rules to reflect their unique character. An example of an existing current special signage district is the Canadian Tire Centre. This paper highlights and seeks public input on several other areas that may be potential candidates for differentiated treatment in terms of sign regulations.

Illumination [ PDF 488 KB ]

Illuminated signs communicate information about businesses to the public and assist in after-dark wayfinding to those businesses. At the same time, they can have a substantial impact on the way streets and communities look and, if not properly regulated, can distract traffic and be a nuisance to adjacent properties. This paper invites public input on how the City can achieve balance among these factors in the By-law.

Compatibility of Signs with Land Use [ PDF 1.233 MB ]

Signs should be compatible with their surroundings while reflecting the different needs of particular settings. The current By-law incorporates a graduated approach to sign permissions from the most restrictive in residential and other sensitive areas to the most permissive in the more business-intensive commercial and industrial zones. New technologies, new types of developments and new priorities articulated in the City's updated Official Plan raise questions as to how sign rules can best be linked to land uses. This paper outlines some of the issues and seeks public input on them.

Direction for the New Sign By-law [ PDF 192 KB ] 

This is a follow-up to previous discussion papers outlining the objectives for signage and key issues being considered in the review. It provides an overview of how the new By-law anticipates achieving these objectives and indicates which new types of signs will be covered.

Proposed Key Changes [ PDF 142 KB ] 

This document provides an overview of the proposed changes to signage rules that will be incorporated in the new Permanent Signs By-law. It is a follow-up to previous discussion papers outlining the objectives for signage, key issues being considered in the review, and comments received from the public during the consultation process.


Elizabeth Siwicki
Building Code Services Branch
Planning and Growth Management Department
101 Centrepointe Dr
Ottawa, ON K2G 5K7
Tel: 613-580-2424 ext 41495
Fax: 613-580-2688