Downtown digital sign study

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In the last 20 years, there has been an increase in the usage of digital signs as an advertising, place-making, and entertainment tool in many cities worldwide. Downtown Kitchener has seen an increase in requests for this type of signage, where they are currently not allowed.

Allowing these signs downtown could have a number of impacts.

We're undertaking a study to explore those impacts, and to start that process we want to know what you think. Please complete our short survey below - your feedback will inform our study.

In the last 20 years, there has been an increase in the usage of digital signs as an advertising, place-making, and entertainment tool in many cities worldwide. Downtown Kitchener has seen an increase in requests for this type of signage, where they are currently not allowed.

Allowing these signs downtown could have a number of impacts.

We're undertaking a study to explore those impacts, and to start that process we want to know what you think. Please complete our short survey below - your feedback will inform our study.

  • Background info

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    24 Sep 2020

    Purpose and Scope of Study

    The purpose of the Downtown Kitchener Digital Sign Study is to evaluate the merits of allowing digital signs in Downtown Kitchener. Digital signs are currently not permitted in Downtown and there has been an increase in requests to allow these. This study will examine current by-law requirements for digital signs in Kitchener and beyond, explore trends in the digital sign industry, and gather feedback from the public and key Downtown Kitchener stakeholders. Criteria for appropriately implementing digital signs in an urban context will also be explored, including how negative impacts could be mitigated. At the study’s conclusion, the objective is to offer a recommendation to Kitchener City Council on the future of digital signs in Downtown Kitchener.

    Need for a Definition of Digital Signs

    The City’s Sign By-law was most recently revised in 2011. Currently, it does not have a definition for “Digital Sign”.

    However, it does have a definition for “Automatic Changing Copy”, which would include a digital sign. This term means “copy or images on a sign, shown by any electronic means, and which may or may not change… automatic changing copy shall include but is not limited to a video screen, television screen, read-o-graph or projected image.”

    The Sign By-law may need to be updated through this study to include references to and definitions of the most up-to-date digital sign technology.

    What does the Kitchener Sign By-law currently allow?

    In the City of Kitchener, digital signs with images (“Automatic Changing Copy”) are permitted on ground-supported signs and facia signs in some areas of the City such as industrial, commercial, and institutional properties. In the Downtown, digital signs are not permitted on any type of sign.

    Where digital signs are permitted in Kitchener, there are additional requirements such as minimum distance to an intersection, minimum distance from a residential property, limits on the size of the screen proportional to the overall sign, requirements to have a built-in sensor that adjusts lighting levels based on outdoor conditions, and a minimum amount of time that an ‘image’ must be displayed before changing to the next one.

  • Considerations

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    24 Sep 2020

    Digital signs have a number of potential impacts. Through the study, staff will assess opportunities and concerns, including ways in which that concerns could be addressed.

    Among other factors, staff will consider:

    - Compatibility with residential

    - Urban design / aesthetics

    - impact on downtown businesses

    - Brightness

    - Interaction with traffic

    - Interaction with cultural heritage resources

    - Interactions from key landmarks

    - Hours of operation

    - Animated vs. still

    - Number of signs per property

    - Sign dimensions and area

    - Programming (i.e., content that is displayed)

    - Location on a building

  • What do other cities allow?

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    24 Sep 2020

    Waterloo

    In the City of Waterloo, digital signs with images (“Animated Signs”) are not permitted in ‘Uptown’, the city’s downtown core. They are permitted in two areas of the city: in a large commercial plaza (Boardwalk) and near a shopping mall (Conestoga Mall). The regulations that apply to these signs include requirements to ‘dim’ the light levels between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., requirements to have a built-in sensor that adjusts lighting levels based on outdoor conditions, and restrictions on how bright the lighting can be.

    Cambridge

    In the City of Cambridge, digital signs include actions or motions (“Animated Signs”) are not permitted anywhere in the city. Any proposal to have an Animated Sign in Cambridge requires approval of City Council.