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New Year, Same Hurdles

Another round-up of sign-code news



Happy New Year! I hope you had a terrific holiday season. Although the deal struck to avert the so-called fiscal cliff probably didn’t present an ideal solution, at least its framework averts tax hikes that would’ve crippled the economic climate for 2013 before the year could break from the starting blocks.

Now that the Mayans have been proven wrong about their supposedly predicted apocalypse (maybe they simply grew bored with charting their calendar), challenges persist. Although new technologies and trends offer both opportunities and obstacles, some remain constant. Sign codes provide a prime case in point. Here are a few examples of sign-code news that illustrate the divergent attitudes of governmental bodies – some embrace signage, while others seemingly scorn its economic benefits.

• City officials in Winnipeg, MB, Canada proposed astronomical increases on billboard taxation. According to a Winnipeg Sun article posted on November 30, the city proposed an increase on static billboard taxes from $1.50 to $5.70 per sq. ft., and from $1.50 to $48 per sq. ft. (at the public-comment meeting, city officials reduced the proposal to $34.20 per sq. ft.). Predictably, opposition arose swiftly. Wayne Robson, owner of Robson Maintenance, said he would have to remove billboards and cut staff if the proposal passed. Joanne Koon, director of sales for Pattison Outdoor Advertising, also expressed similar sentiments. Thankfully, these voices were heard; according to a Winnipeg Free Press article posted December 7, Winnipeg’s executive-policy committee decided to postpone the vote to further study the issue, which the Free Press noted could include revenue sharing. Though not stated in either article, it’s certainly conceivable that new “revenue streams” could include higher permit and inspection fees for on-premise signage. Outdoor-advertising companies have more resources to fight such draconian measures than most sign companies.
• In St. Petersburg, FL, the city council considered passing an ordinance that would ban sidewalk sign spinners. Sign-spinning opponents cited concern over driver distraction and worker safety, but the council chose to scale down regulations. They mandated that spinners stand in front of the businesses they are promoting, and they must be at least 5 ft. from the curb.
• In Fair Lawn, NJ, city officials and the Broadway Improvement Corp. (BIC), a public-private partnership that promotes downtown business development, have joined forces to create a new sign ordinance that, according to, allows business owners more flexibility in the size and typefaces allowed for storefront signage. Business with 20 linear ft. or more of frontage can have sign up to 70% as wide as the wall; businesses with 10 to 20 ft. may install signs up to 80% as wide; and business with less than 10 ft. may occupy up to 90% of wall width with a sign.

Additionally, we’re happy to announce that we’re adding a “Reader’s Choice” component to this year’s International Sign Contest coverage. Starting later this month, we’ll post 20 entries selected by the contest’s panel of judges in a pair of surveys. One will feature 10 electric signs, and the other 10 non-electric. You’ll be able to select your top three choices in each. The February ST issue will feature QR codes that readers may scan to access surveys. They will also be linked on and through our social-media channels.

The first round’s judging will be open from January 28-February 8, and the championship round, which will include the top six finishers (the top three scorers from each first-round survey), will occur from February 13-22.




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