Appeal board denies third-party advertising permit on Macleod Trail

thumb sign2Calgary's Subdivision and Development Appeal Board denied an appeal from Pattison Outdoor Advertising at a Jan. 17 hearing. The appeal challenged a refusal of a permit to erect a third-party advertising sign on Macleod Trail near 39th Street LRT station.

Board members Meg Bures, Brian Corkum, Natasha Pashak and chair Jo-Anne Atkins heard from Scott Baird and lawyer Timothy Bardsley representing Pattison Outdoor Advertising.

The initial permit application was denied by the City of Calgary Development Authority for the following reasons:

  1. Bylaws dictate third-party advertising signs must be at least 75 metres apart to avoid "sign proliferation." There is an existing sign 28.6 metres from the site of Pattison's proposed sign.
  2. At three metres high, the sign would be oriented to automotive traffic rather than pedestrians. The city's Transit Oriented Development Policy Guidelines suggest that the area within 600 metres, or a 10-minute walk, of an LRT station should reflect "human scaled architecture" at the eye level of pedestrians.

By way of counter-argument, Pattison Advertising's Scott Baird presented images of the existing sign and argued that it is illegal. The sign stands on city property close to a little-used road access point. Without it, Pattison's sign would be in compliance with bylaws.signCalgary land use bylaws define third-party advertising signs as “directing attention to a business, commodity, service or entertainment that is conducted, sold or offered elsewhere than on the site where the sign is located.” At heights of up to 8.3 metres, freestanding Class F signs like this one target auto rather than pedestrian traffic.

Photo by Jessica Ryan

Board members were worried the illegal sign, owned by CBS Outdoor Advertising, would not be removed. Documented email correspondence between the Pattison sign's site owner and CBS confirms that CBS is appealing a sign removal order from the city, and has only committed to covering the advertising on the sign.

Chair Atkins expressed concern that CBS could choose to continue to pay the $500 to $1000 fine associated with illegal signs rather than actually remove it.

Addressing the second reason for refusal, Bardsley argued that the area around the 39th Street LRT station does not currently reflect the pedestrian values outlined by the transit development guidelines, given the heavy traffic and industrial nature of Macleod Trail.

Bardsley noted that the Development Authority has the authority to deny a permit renewal if, five years later when it expires, the area has changed significantly to become more pedestrian-friendly.

Bardsley recently appeared before the board in two other denied appeals for third-party advertising permits on Macleod Trail.

The board deliberated for 28 minutes before denying the appeal. Written reasons suggest that the board was not convinced the existing sign is illegal and will be removed.

A search of decisions regarding third-party advertising sign permit refusals reveals the board is increasingly denying appeals.

  • 2010: 18 appeals against refusal, 13 rulings in favour of the appellant
  • 2011: five appeals against refusal, three rulings in favour of the appellant
  • 2012: nine appeals against refusal, one ruling in favour of the appellant

Since 2008, 11 appeals have been made against refused sign permits along Macleod Trail. Only four appeals have been granted.

Pattison Outdoor also markets pedestrian-oriented vinyl advertising banners featured in downtown LRT stations.

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