Red Deer’s portable sign rules causing problems for Terry Fox organizers

Rules for portable signs could change for charities after the Terry Fox Foundation found it difficult to post its lawn signs 11 days before its fundraising run in September 2009 in Red Deer.

Rules for portable signs could change for charities after the Terry Fox Foundation found it difficult to post its lawn signs 11 days before its fundraising run in September 2009 in Red Deer.

The city received a letter from the foundation last June, requesting changes to the portable sign regulations in the land-use bylaw.

Every year, the foundation supplies its run organizers with portable lawn signs that promote the run. For about 10 years, organizers for the cancer fundraiser were using the signs after initially receiving permission.

Julia Townell, city bylaw research co-ordinator, said the temporary signs are not allowed on public property, with the exception of election, garage sale, A-board (with a permit), and government signs. The portable signs used by the Terry Fox Run are allowed in commercial and industrial areas only.

She added that when special event permits are issued for an event like the Terry Fox Run, the city doesn’t strictly enforce the sign rules on the day the event occurs.

“In this case, however, signs were located on city lands and in residential neighbourhoods several weeks in advance of the event and had to be removed,” said Townell in a report.

Allowing organizations to place portable signs on public property could impact driver safety and severely detract from the aesthetics of the city, she added.

Rhonda Risebrough, provincial director for the Terry Fox Foundation, said they have distributed more than 50 of these lawn signs in Red Deer over the years.

“These lawn signs are used in hundreds of communities across Canada every year,” said Risebrough in a letter. “This is the first time any issue has arisen over the use of these signs in Alberta.”

Councillor Tara Veer said she likes to pay attention to anything causing urban blight, but wondered about adding these signs for a certain time period.

She suggested having administration prepare an amendment to the city bylaw to allow portable signs under the following conditions: in conjunction with special event permits; to be permitted within a specific time frame, including set up and take down; and to provide for signs within public rights of way at the discretion of the development officer. That motion was endorsed by council.

Red Deer Terry Fox Run organizer Loretta Winia said she’s glad to see that changes may be coming.

These signs help to bring further awareness to the run, which raises money for cancer research in honour of Terry Fox, who raised money by running part way through Canada before having to stop when his cancer spread. The 22-year-old died on June 28, 1981.

“It’s not just about the Terry Fox Run, it’s about other charitable organizations and non-profits,” Winia said. “If you have a city that doesn’t allow you any signs, do people recognize those events going on? It’s about building culture.”

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