Long gone are the days when sign companies could just put up a sign and not worry about obtaining a sign permit. Although the industry of sign manufacturers large and small, we’re under the impression that if the former tenant of a premise had a sign then perhaps it wasn’t really necessary for a new sign permit because they were just replacing one sign box with another. Other justifications to go without a sign permit were that if it’s just a small business, the city doesn’t really care about signs and it’s much easier just to put the sign up and see if anybody notices and then worry about it then.
In the 80s and 90s that probably worked but things have changed with the adoption of new sign bylaws, changed bylaws and, more importantly, hiring new bylaw officers to actually enforce the bylaws. I have heard from many sources that 19 new bylaw officers were hired by the city and now there is actually a sign bylaw unit with dedicated individuals to deal with getting the sign permit, executing the work and enforcing infractions.
The direction of the city through the sign unit department is to clean up the city especially on the enforcement side. The officers actually go store to store looking for infractions and existing sign permits. We have noticed a lot more activity with permit follow-ups and removal orders for those people who have put signs up without the proper sign permit. And they mean business.
Now more than ever the bylaw officers go back to inspect the work and sign off on the permit. If you get a notice from the city for not having a sign permit for your new sign you will have to make the application in the end or take down your sign if it doesn’t comply. The disadvantage here would be that you hoped what you bought without the permit is the right size, has the right construction specifications and was installed safely to code.
I recently attended the Sign Variance Appeal meeting at City Hall where parties can challenge the decision of the sign bylaw unit for refused permits and plead their case. Out of about 20 cases, only three were successful. My case was approved because my client’s signs were 20 years old and were oversized, but the Rapport Credit Union that I was representing, fortunately, had original permits which were found, presented and acknowledged by the committee. The new sign that we put up with a permit put the square footage over the allowable square footage.
The bylaw officer upon final inspection of our new sign noticed the existing signs and cited the credit union. Fortunately, the original permits were found and presented at the committee hearing and everything was approved. Had the permits not been found or the credit union not represented well at the hearing, a removal order would’ve been issued and executed.
The famous mural at the CITY TV building which had been up there since 1986 with several repaints was ordered down at the meeting because they repainted it recently without a proper permit.
In spite of a well-respected architect being there to plea the creative side for Bell Media and a competent lawyer for the legal side, the decision by the committee was to uphold the sign bylaw unit’s decision to remove it.
People were shocked because it’s an iconic symbol along Queen West but according to the new bylaws you need a new permit if you repaint a billboard. But if you’re a good manufacturer and you play by the rules you will win in the end.
We are very busy in our permit department and are very successful with the city because we like to play by the rules and it goes a long way. We also know when to stand our ground and will appeal decisions frequently to get permits. We have recently won 3 variance decisions to allow signs on heritage buildings and a school who that required signage in a residential zone. Often it’s negotiated with the bylaw officer and the manager of the sign by-law unit to reach a happy compromise for obtaining the right kind of sign for a customer and his building to keep everybody happy. As a company making signs, you have to be familiar with the nine-point checklist that has to be met for sign approvals.
My advice for retailers would be have your sign company pay the extra $300 or $400 for the permit application, have them do the drawings properly and accurately to reflect what you’re doing and have them apply for the permit because if you don’t there’s a good chance it will come back and will cost you a lot more time and money. Not to mention the embarrassment of it all if your sign is ordered down. Don’t be surprised if this happens to you that your sign company might bail out if they don’t do permits as a matter of course in their business.
To conclude, I think the city is doing a pretty good job and they’re making it so that it’s fair for everybody and sign manufacturers who continually put signs up for clients without the proper permits will sooner or later pay the price.
If you go to our website under creative services you will see typical drawings that are required for the permit applications. Sign A Rama Toronto has 2 full-time staff members who prepare drawings and do the permit applications to help our clients. We are also available for consultations knowing the sign bylaws and the current conditions of each area of the GTA. So if you are looking for a new sign for your business feel free to contact us at 416-922-7446 or can fill our contact form here. We will get in touch with you to help you with your query.
Signarama Toronto is a premier sign and display company which has been present in Downtown Toronto since 1986. We offer a comprehensive in-house design with our 3 graphic designers, complete manufacturing, and installation. We are ContractorCheck accredited company and fully insured with $10,000,000 insurance coverage. We have all WSIB clearance certificates and each and every member of our team is fully trained in first aid, ladder training and safety practices.