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Mississauga signs up volunteer sign cops

Volunteers are being asked to help remove some of the more than 25,000 illegal signs that clutter city streets each year.
May 26, 2015
By San Grewal

They take over Mississauga’s pristine green streetscapes every spring - more than 25,000 of them, popping up like dandelions. Now, the city is asking residents to take up the fight against the growing blight of illegal signs.

Advertising everything from duct cleaning and driving schools to wet-basement repairs, they had become so ubiquitous - along streets and sidewalks, on top of medians and even taped to stop signs - that seven years ago Mississauga passed a “nuisance signs” bylaw. Last week, a new effort was launched to get residents involved.

The law allows any resident 18 or older who completes a form and gets approval to become an authorized nuisance sign remover.

Though one online commenter claims to have signed up and removed 4,000 signs, there’s been little take-up on the volunteer initiative. So last week, on Councillor Pat Saito’s recommendation, an awareness program was launched to get more residents on board.

“We’re talking about illegal signs that are on public property. They’re everywhere. As soon as spring comes, they are all over the place,” said Saito. “People will try to keep them up as long as they can.”

“They’re everywhere,” agrees resident Ann Barclay, who plans on signing up and driving around with members of her Malton citizens’ group to remove the various illegal advertisements around her neighbourhood.

“You name it, they’re stuck in the ground or taped to a poll somewhere: tutoring services, handymen, every business you can think of. It really looks bad. It’s all over Mississauga.”

Real estate signs advertising things such as open houses are exempt, as are garage-sale signs, as long as they are put up and taken down within one day of the event - otherwise, they’re open game for nuisance sign removers. The bylaw frowns on residents removing signs in areas posing a safety risk, so those on medians and intersections are not to be touched by residents.

Darren Bryan, the city’s supervisor of the sign program, has one full-time staffer removing signs year round and six students hired for four months in the summer. His department removes 25,000 illegal signs a year. That doesn’t include those taken down by other departments or residents.

“We ask residents to use a commonsense approach. If someone confronts you about taking down their sign, just give it back.”

Otherwise, residents are asked to remove them and throw them into the nearest garbage bin.

Bryan admits saving costs was one motivation for the program.

Barclay says bylaw officers are too busy with more serious issues. “It’s up to residents to clean the clutter up,” she said, “not create it.”