Sign Pollution or Community Information Sharing
A similar letter was sent to both the local paper and the Town Council regarding this issue. Read the entire letter here.
The Town of Gravenhurst Council has been drafting a Sign Bylaw in order to address something referred to as “Sign Pollution”. This proposed Bylaw currently contains spelling mistakes and at least 2 missing referenced sections, to name a few errors. (Perhaps they need to hire a Proof Reader).
Only 7 days notice was given about the public input meeting on April 20th? It was printed in only the April 13th and 20th issues of the Gravenhurst Banner. With the meeting being held on April 20th. That by calculation was yes, 2 paper announcements, but only 7 days notice.
So did you get a chance to have your say? We didn’t, so here it is.
The Town of Gravenhurst states in the draft bylaw that one purpose of it is to: “provide reasonable and appropriate means for the public to locate and identify facilities, business, services, and events without difficulty or confusion”. Another purpose is to: “balance the public’s right to expression with the purpose and intent of this By-law.”
After reading the 27 page draft bylaw—this Sign Bylaw directly affects both of these purposes in a negative manner—contravening the intended purposes. It is apparent to us that the purpose is actually to destroy the primary communication methods for small businesses, charities, non-profits, and yard sales. This will lead to difficulty and confusion for the public to locate and identify facilities, business, services, and events. It hinders the very public’s right to expression.
Community Information Sharing Depots
There are those who consider these signs to be eyesores. Many more of us, look at these trees, poles or other posting sights as being “Community Information Sharing” depots.
Think about it—what are the signs being considered unsightly?
The signs by ordinary citizens like you and me. Whether you are looking for your lost pet, or having a yard sale as you declutter. Perhaps you live on a private road with several neighbors. All of you have signs with your names directing people down your road. These signs are usually posted on a tree.
Or the best kind of signs—the small business owner. Perhaps it is the independent plumber, electrician, or building contractor. And recently, the signs from young college students trying to find customers for summer painting jobs.
All of these are small businesses trying to just make a basic living and pay their bills. One problem they all have in common is finding customers, or having their customers find them. In this growing age of cell phones, it is becoming increasingly more and more difficult to find these small businesses.
Why? Good question. With increasing technology—we are also at the same time losing the most basic means of communication. How do you find the phone number of a small business person who only has a cell phone as their communication device? Is there a phone book or other such directory to locate people’s cell phone numbers?
Bring Out The Handcuffs
A recent news release on the Town of Gravenhurst website announced that on June 1st they will start removing signs that they deem to be “illegal” and “sign pollution”. Alongside the notice was a photo of a particular “Community Information Sharing” spot, aka a tree it looked like, that was in our opinion, a local small business phone directory. On that pole you could find help for plumbing, electrical, painting, cottage maintenance services and more. It is a centralized phone book.
However, the Town of Gravenhurst is using this as an example of what they have determined to be “Sign Pollution”.
These small business people are the living, breathing, backbone of our community. People that are just struggling to make ends meet and keep business costs down. A huge business cost is advertising their services.
A Canadian Right And Tradition
The Town of Gravenhurst also states another purpose of this Sign Bylaw it to be “consistent with the Town’s historical values and objectives”.
For more than 150 years, Canadian small businesses have built this land. It began with the sharing of crafts and skills in order to survive.
Perhaps, you, as a pioneer, had a way to get your chickens to lay an abundance of eggs. But you needed to have another pioneer, a woodsman, fix the roof on your barn. You may have traded for services. But you knew about each other by the sharing of information, and quite often with the use of signs displaying your “tool of trade”.
The posting of signs is already displaying the consistent Town historical values and objectives. Over 150 years worth of history in fact.
Why now are local governments wanting to destroy the very heartbeat of our nation? So, a few want our already beautiful community to be nothing more than a sterile magazine. Well, we don’t live in a magazine, nor do we want to. Instead, we want to be able to know about our neighbors and their skills and services. We want a community.
Perhaps we can help someone in their search for a lost pet. And maybe, we simply want to enjoy a Saturday morning “date” and go to a yard sale.
An estimated $100,000 plus is brought into the Gravenhurst local economy annually with the hundreds of yard sales alone. How many yard sale attendees stop for coffee, a meal, or shopping in our downtown stores afterwards?
All of these are very legitimate things and services that are being advertised on these poles and trees.
Don’t Just Ban—Give A Solution
Instead of declaring them as suddenly “pollution”—and just banning and wiping them out—work with the citizens to develop a solution.
We believe there should be a minimum of 5 Community Information Sharing boards placed in strategic locations throughout town. If you don’t want Community Information Sharing signs going up hydro poles and the such, then provide areas for it to be shared and posted instead. Don’t just do a blanket ban.
Which is worse? Signs that go “up” at strategic locations, or those in the wire frames stuck in the ground running along the entire “length” of streets?
We envision boards that are about 6-8 feet in length and about 4 feet in height. Sturdy and made of plywood and solid 4 x 4 or 6 x 6 posts to support the weight and have the bottom of the board about 3 feet off the ground.
Do not cover them in plexiglass and locks. No, these need to be easily accessed by you and me at any time of day or night. Something sturdy enough for stapling to.
In fact, by having such an organized Community Information Sharing location, you could request everyone to only place notices no bigger than 8 ½ x 11, and that would allow for uniformity (for those who care about aesthetics) and allow more of us to post things that the community needs to know about. Then people can get out of their vehicles and write down all the needed information that they require.
And to those posting notices on these Community Information Sharing boards, please remove your event notification within a couple of days after your event. Freeing up space for others to post their notices.
Possible Community Information Sharing Locations
The 5 locations that would be ideal include
- the corner of Winewood and Muskoka Beach Road, at the skateboard park
- corner of Winewood and Muskoka Road North,
- a big one in the “parkette” where the “Heritage Building” once stood. If the owners are not permitted to replace the 9 housing units that once stood there, perhaps it could be used to promote local small businesses exclusively
- outside the Town of Gravenhurst Town Office building
- and somewhere along the Walker’s Point region also
However, these signs need to be prominently located and easily visible so that people can access the information. Yes, they need to be divided to allow a section for the small businesses such as independent contractors, and the other section for yard sales, special events, and lost pets type postings.
Remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and while you may see Sign Pollution, we see a vibrant community striving to stay connected with their neighbors.
While asking citizens to stop communicating with each other in the ways that have worked successfully for decades, we ask that you provide a way to allow citizens to continue to connect with their neighbors. A compromise method, such as Community Information Sharing boards could be that solution. And this helps with the perceived aesthetics issue.
Which is more important? Aesthetics or communication? We believe communication is much more important.
Free Stuff 4 Daily Needs mandate is to support local small businesses and help those in need.
If you would like to read more about another strange bylaw our community has, read: Shipping Containers, Love Them Or Hate Them