Seeing the signs

Cranbrook council wants public input on new rules for business signs; the goal is to beautify the strip

The City of Cranbrook is in the process of changing its rules about signs, and business owners and residents can learn more at an open house next week.

A draft sign bylaw was given first reading by city council last week. It will be subject to public consultation, then council will consider it again. If approved, the new sign bylaw will be the first time since 1977 that Cranbrook has changes its rules on signage.

“That makes its 35 years old. Technology, the kinds of signs that are available for people, have progressed since then so it’s timely to update our bylaw,” said Mayor Wayne Stetski.

City council is taking steps to improve the look of Cranbrook, particularly the Highway 3 corridor through town.

“When you drive through Cranbrook, you see quite a great variety of signs and what I would like to see is some more standardization,” said Stetski.

The new bylaw allows for seven new sign types and changes the height and size requirements for signs. For instance, freestanding signs will only be allowed to be 6 metres tall, down from 10.6 metres tall, if the new bylaw is approved. This rule is designed to reduce clutter on the skyline through Cranbrook and improve viewscapes.

A number of signs that exist in Cranbrook at that moment are slated to be prohibited under the new bylaw. Most notably, these include “day-glo”, fluorescent, and luminous signs, as well as sandwich board signs.

Any existing signs in Cranbrook that don’t meet the requirements of the new bylaw but did have the appropriate permit when they were built will be deemed “legal non-confirming” and allowed to stay. However, if those signs need to be changed or replaced, they would have to comply by the new requirements.

Along with the regulations that the proposed bylaw contains, there is a set of guidelines for businesses to follow when they are planning a new sign.

“Staff has tried to balance off regulations versus guidelines in the bylaw,” said Mayor Stetski.

“People don’t necessarily have to follow (guidelines) – we are going to encourage people to follow them because ultimately, in my ideal world, we would have a Cranbrook look to signage.”

The guidelines, for instance, discourage backlit and neon signs. Freestanding signs should be located in a landscaped base with plants that are suitable for this environment. Sign materials should be natural in character, ideally wood, stone, rock, brick or painted metal. Earth tones or other natural, warm colours are preferred. Signs in downtown Cranbrook should complement the historical character of the area, ideally with design that reflects “turn of the century” architecture.

The new sign regulations are just part of city council’s efforts to beautify Highway 3, said the mayor, adding that a Highway 3 committee has been created.

“Over the next year, we are going to look at all aspects of Highway 3 through Cranbrook,” said Stetski.

The committee will also consider things like art and sculptures, zoning, and the addition of playgrounds and parks along the strip, he said.

The open house on the draft sign bylaw will be held on Wednesday, December 5 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Manual Training School beside Cranbrook Public Library.

“Everybody in Cranbrook, not just business people, has a stake in what we look like. I would encourage all the public to stop in and offer their views,” said Stetski.