OMAC denounces final draft of Toronto sign bylaw

In a statement released late yesterday, the Out-of-Home Marketing Association says the final draft of the City of Toronto's proposed sign bylaw jeopardizes the industry's future.

The organization representing several major out-of-home advertising companies says the final draft of the City of Toronto’s sign bylaw jeopardizes the industry’s future.

In a statement issued yesterday, the Out-of-home Marketing Association of Canada (OMAC) described the harmonized bylaw put forth by the City yesterday as ‘punitive, unrealistic and unfair.’ It also urged the City’s bylaw project team to consider deferring an upcoming presentation of the bylaw to the Planning and Growth Committee until it has engaged in ‘meaningful discussions’ with the OOH industry.

The bylaw addresses everything from third-party signs’ proximity to other signs to illumination. However, a new Third-Party Sign Tax is the most contentious issue for OMAC, which says the anticipated $10.4 million in taxes the City will collect from OOH operators in 2011 is 25% greater than its members’ combined 2008 earnings of $8 million before interest and taxes.

In an interview last night, OMAC president Rosanne Caron told MiC the organization’s members, which include CBS Outdoor, Pattison Outdoor and Titan, are ‘alarmed’ and ‘very concerned’ about the bylaw. ‘How are we going to pay that?’ asked Caron. ‘It’s ridiculous, it’s outrageous. Between the tax and what they’re proposing in terms of regulations, it’s going to have a serious impact on the industry. And what’s ironic is that it’s going to have an impact on the City. They have the most to gain from a revenue standpoint.’

In a release on its website, the city stated the new bylaw will allow companies to promote themselves while remaining in line with the city’s policies.

‘The new sign bylaw is intended to be current, anticipating new advances in sign technology and be consistent with the future vision for the public realm of the City of Toronto,’ Ann Borooah, chief building official, said in the release. ‘The new bylaw also provides commercial and industrial enterprises adequate and flexible means to identify themselves and their products and services on their premises, while remaining compatible with adopted City-building policies like Toronto’s new Official Plan.’

In a statement issued late yesterday, OMAC contended that the City plans to unfairly implement the bylaw, and warned that it will ‘severely damage’ the industry if adopted. Ultimately, OMAC said, the bylaw will reduce income to the city in the form of rent and taxes. The organization argued that the City is the ‘single largest beneficiary’ of revenue from the industry, with its member companies contributing an average of $36.8 million a year to the city through lease agreements.

OMAC further states that it had prepared and delivered three submissions to the project team detailing issues that needed to be addressed and providing recommendations, but received no feedback. The group also claimed that it sent letters of concern to both Mayor David Miller and the sign bylaw project team on Sept. 15 and Oct. 5 respectively, but received no response.

‘What they’ve been calling ‘consultation’ is where we listen and they talk,’ said Caron. ‘Dialogue is when you have an exchange, and we’ve never to this day had any feedback on any of the submissions that we’ve made.’

Caron said she hopes the bylaw project team will ‘seriously consider’ putting off the planned Nov. 4 presentation to the City’s Planning and Growth Committee, instead holding a special meeting sometime in December.

The sign bylaw has been discussed in eight public consultation sessions and five consultation sessions with sign industry stakeholders and public space advocates. Two previous reports have been made to the Planning and Growth Management Committee, in which both public and industry stakeholder deputations were presented. For more information on this topic, see MiC‘s June 2009 story.