Protest signs are not permitted in Oak Bay according to the municipal bylaw. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)

Are anti-development signs illegal in Oak Bay?

Academic says Oak Bay sign bylaw unconstitutional

Election time is over and residents have seven days to remove the campaign signs from their lawns.

After seven days, they revert to being illegal again, according to Oak Bay’s thorough sign bylaw.

According to Oak Bay bylaws, election signs are one of the only free standing signs permitted on a residential yard (for 30 days prior to voting day and seven days after). The same bylaw says any sign other than a for-sale sign, or one for your address, is also illegal on residential lawns.

Which means, technically, those Stop Over Development that oppose the Oak Bay United Church’s previous development application are not legal.

READ MORE: Neighbours wake to shocking signs on their lawns

Ed Boogaars, who doubles as Oak Bay’s bylaw officer and as a building inspector, has actually confiscated a few, but only those which were clearly placed on city property such as a boulevard or right-of-way.

He said there has been some debate as to the legality or purpose of the signs.

It’s a complaint based system, after all, and without complaints from Oak Bay residents bylaw isn’t likely to take action on a matter, unless it’s a life health issue, he said.

However, the sign bylaw may in fact be unconstitutional and could be challenged, said Jenn Neilson of Victoria, whose PhD in the philosophy of law specialized in the freedom of artistic expression.

In addition to the ban of signs on lawns, the Oak Bay prohibits any person to “affix, erect, install any sign or notice on any building, tree, utility pole, fence, post or other structure on public property or on a boulevard except on notice boards provided by the Corporation for that purpose.”

Commercial properties are different, but only in that they permit signs pertaining to the purpose of the business.

The problem, Neilson explains, is that the sign bylaw is a blanket-ban on freedom of expression that goes too far, and it’s happened in both Oak Bay and Victoria, alike.

“You can’t put up a sign on your property, and you can’t put up a poster on a telephone poll, so you’re left without any options to share the message,” Neilson said.

READ ALSO: Greater Victroia developer removes parts of historic wall before of heritage protection is applied

The precedent comes from a 1993 case in Peterborough, Ont., which had a similar ban on postering. Musician Kenneth Ramsden challenged Peterborough’s ban against postering signs for his band’s concert. He won in the name of artistic expression.

“Any ban has to be rational,” Neilson said. “If posters [or signs] are banned to fix a littering problem, it can’t ban everything else, it should ban as little as possible to fit the objective.”

Even when a bylaw is fixed, or is unconstitutional, the precedent is already there and it leaves a “chilling effect” on free speech.

“Even if the bylaw is unconstitutional people won’t do it,” Neilson said.

Neilson is in the process of challenging Victoria’s postering bylaw, however, it is a much different situation from Oak Bay. In Victoria, postering is legal on 55 postering cylinders but the management of the poles has become unfair, she said.

reporter@oakbaynews.com

 

Just Posted

Single vehicle crash on Sooke Road

Light standard was sheared off and bus shelter struck by the lone driver

VIDEO: North Island man trapped under ATV for days shows promise at Victoria hospital

Out of induced coma, 41-year-old is smiling, squeezing hands and enjoying sunshine

Test reveals fentanyl creep into Sooke heroin supply

The fentanyl made up 20 per cent of the sample

Highlands family plans to rebuild after losing home, three dogs to devastating fire

Family of six begins to rebuild their lives with new puppy

Victoria councillors ask taxpayers for opinions on 55 per cent wage increase

Council seeks feedback on the request in an online budget survey

Family of B.C. man killed in hit-and-run plead for tips, one year later

Cameron Kerr’s family says the driver and passengers tried to cover their tracks

12 Sooke events to get you into the holiday spirit

From a Santa parade to classicial music, Sooke has it all

Ski resorts selling mountain water is a risky move, critics say

Alberta allowed ski resort in Kananaskis Country to sell about 50 million litres to third party

Sportsnet looks at new options for Coach’s Corner time slot, post-Don Cherry

Spokesperson says Hall of Fame feature on tap this weekend after co-host’s firing

Grand Forks residents protest on bridge to call for ‘fair’ compensation after 2018 floods

Demonstrators also criticized how long it has taken to be offered land deals

B.C. taxi drivers no longer exempt from wearing a seatbelt

Before, taxi drivers were allowed to forego a seatbelt when driving under 70 kilometres an hour

Car dash covered in papers not an excuse for speeding, Delta police warn

After pulling driver over for speeding, police found his speedometer blocked by a stack of papers

B.C. woman seeks return of jewelry box containing father’s cremated remains

Sicamous RCMP report handmade box was stolen from a storage locker

Vancouver police officer charged with sexual assault in apparent off-duty incident

Jagraj Roger Berar, 51, of Surrey, charged in incident alleged to have happened in Whistler

Most Read