Unblissful Signs

Coat of arms of the town of Kingsville, Ontario.

Coat of arms of the town of Kingsville, Ontario. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A note of explanation: As many of you know, I am the municipal reporter for my small town paper, but I also write a column. This week’s column was the subject of yesterday’s post, but I also wrote a second half. This is the second half. The woman mentioned in the article, Mary-Ann was a legal secretary and she and I worked at different firms years ago (she was a real legal secretary, I was someone  floundering in  a sea of unemployment until my father-in-law hired me). Steve, the associate editor is my colleague. The signs that I am talking about are the portable signs that seem to be popping up all over our lovely town of Kingsville in southwestern Ontario (we brag about being the southern most town in Ontario)–and as you can see from the column, I am of two minds–I believe businesses should be able to advertise and prosper, but I also wish that they could find another more attractive way to do it. I tend to stay away from opinion pieces having to do with the municipality–because I want to maintain my subjectivity–but sometimes you just have to speak out:

 On a Different Note…..

            “Signs, signs, everywhere a sign

            Blocking out the scenery breaking my mind….”


            Many of us of a certain age remember the song, “Signs”, from the early 1970’s. It was performed by an unknown Canadian rock group, Five Man Electrical Band and composed by Les Emmerson. It was written during what Wikipedia calls “an era of social and political change.” I would argue that all times are eras of social and political change, but that is an argument for another time.

            A few weeks ago, Mary-Ann Costa wrote a letter to the editor about the proliferation of signs in our little town that tend to take away from our quaintness. Intrepid associate editor Steve I ‘Anson then took up the gauntlet and expressed his dismay at the way some signs do not add to the attractiveness of our town.

            I usually like to sit on the fence in matters having to with do the rights of others, which is not to say I do not have an opinion but I generally do not voice it. In this case it is the rights of the business people vs. the rights of aesthetics—and to say that one is more important than the other would be wrong. I do not have a solution, but if someone came up with an attractive way to display what businesses have to offer they would be instant heroes.

            I am not crazy about the proliferation of these signs. I cover municipal council and I know that they have come up with a by-law to deal with the signs—but the matter to my mind is complicated.

            Civic pride should not suffer at the hands of business, nor should businesses suffer at the hands of those with delicate sensibilities (my husband says I suffer from this), but there should be a solution. There must be a middle ground—a way to advertise that does not offend or to paraphrase the song “Signs”: block out the scenery breaking our minds. We need to put our thinking caps on.

            Our town is quaint and lovely and a wonderful tourist destination—but it is also a place of business. Can’t the two come together?

 What do you think? Do you have any suggestions that would make our lovely town more blissful?

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22 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Great post, Lou Ann. I visit a little town in South Carolina every year. The island has strict codes for advertising using signs. As a result, I drive around looking for places that I never can find because the signs are too small and camouflaged. They’re all gray and white. It makes me want to pull my hair out. It frustrates me. The island’s businesses have slowly washed up. No pun intended. I often wonder if it’s because the tourists can’t find anything? I think the codes need to be loosened up a little. In the business districts I think a slightly larger sign with some color on it would be acceptable. I also think that trimming the tree branches would help immensely. You can see I’ve given this some thought.
    I think there is a way to be aesthetically pleasing and provide the needed advertisement to keep these businesses alive.

    • see, you have provided the other side to the story–too much regulation can be a bad thing, which is what I think my municipality is trying to avoid–but we do have a million of those “ugly” portable signs and we would be well rid of them

  2. In some municipalities, signs must be approved before they can be posted…. I suppose via a city ordinance – there are size limits and what-not…. but I can see how a business owner, who wants to be creative and attract attention to his business would have issues with that. And you are opening up a can or worms if the town council suggests that…. what is tasteful to some is not tasteful to others. I live on a State highway and there are no more billboards allowed to be posted… the ones that already exist can remain and be replaced but you cannot just randomly start building billboards.
    Personally I have an issue with some of those billboards who having a ever changing screen and bright led lights… I think they are distracting for drivers…. ooops sorry.. too long of a comment. Maybe I better start my own post! LOL

    • we do have restrictions too, but it is the portable signs that are hard to regulate and some have been grandfathered in–but I understand those who are opposed to them–there are too many and they are not attractive

  3. Signs was one of my favorite songs growing up, still is. It helped shape my views on having compassion, sharing and most of all not wanting to isolate myself from nature or people.

    But aside from you quoting from something that influenced me so, signs are a huge problem every where, that I think every city/town has been trying to regulate. In the town limits here you can put a construction advert up only while you are actively working on the home/property.

    Many small businesses have taken to adding their business logo and contact info on their vehicles. This was first successful with landscapers. Others are putting signs inside the front windows of homes that also house a home business which isn’t violating any zoning.

    Another thing that has helped, remember I live in a very small town, are community bulletin boards where you can put your flyers or business cards. We have 2 in our “mall”, and several have been set up in locally owned businesses such as the hardware store, bagel shop and the coffee shop. Everyone knows to check these free boards when looking for things or work they need done.

    • I think that those are ideas that could be incorporated here–I think people do not check the community bulletin boards enough–whenever I do I find treasures

  4. I guess I am like-minded… in that there should be somewhere for businesses to advertise that they are ‘there’… Maybe there should be one area where they list the different businesses that are present in towns and small cities …in the area people are coming in….There are far too many signs also on our highways in general …very distracting…Diane

    • they are, and while we do not suffer from it in my town, some signs are in total bad taste

  5. Hate the portable signs, but they are cheap and easily seen by motorists. Of course we can have more attractive signs, we just have to be more creative.

  6. I live in a small town that prohibits signs. Those ugly sandwhich boards started to show up too. The town and businesses came together and developed an agreement. Very tasteful wooden signs all the same style were put up. They aren’t huge but they are large enough and fit into the colonial character of the town.

    • I think your town has come up with a solution–the signs here are not even as nice as sandwich boards–they are hunking big portable signs that need big cement bricks to secure them

  7. I don’t like those sandwich style signs (and they blow over in the wind). I haven’t seen any of these types of signs since moving to the small town I now live in. I’ll have to find out if they’ve been prohibited…

    • the signs I am talking about are industrially ugly and you can change the letters on them–they are portable and big–and usually have to be anchored by ugly huge cement bricks–did I use the word ugly three times here–you get my drift

  8. […] LouAnn who used the song “Signs” in one of her posts. “Signs” was released during my formative years and can be credited as a strong […]

  9. “And the sign says long-hair freaky people need not apply.” Thanks for that blast from the past. =)

  10. No suggestions I’m afraid. It’s a difficult dilemma.

  11. […] special shout out to my buddy https://onthehomefrontandbeyond.wordpress.com/2013/05/21/unblissful-signs/ who recently blogged about this exact […]

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