Sign By-law Review

On  December 10, 2018, Council approved a new Sign by-law 2018-153.

All aspects of the by-law including format, function and standards were evaluated. Highlights of the town’s new sign by-law include:

  1. Improved format and web presence - Easy to use tables based on specific uses and land use designations (now aligned with the town’s Official Plan) make the by-law easier to navigate and more understandable.
  2. Better capturing of sign types - More detailed sign regulations can be grouped into several categories including permanent or temporary signs; signs for certain motor vehicle-related land uses; development and real estate signs; community signs on town property; and signs incorporating new technology.
  3. Recognition of new technology - Businesses are now provided additional flexibility in advertising through Static Electronic Message Boards (SEMBs). The current by-law only permits SEMBs on ground signs for public schools and government institutions, and only permits the electronic display of time and temperature. Under the new by-law electronic message signs are permitted on a broader basis and include regulations around illumination levels depending on the time of day. 
  4. Enhanced exceptions and amendments process - To simplify the process for the client, applicants seeking changes to sign regulations will now have options available according to the impact of the change being requested. The new options for changes include exceptions, appeals and amendments.
  5. New notification and confirmation process - Permanent sign applicants must now provide notification followed by as-built confirmation of sign installation so staff can better monitor the installation process and ensure signs have been installed safely as approved.
  6. Updated enforcement process - Enforcement processes have been updated and streamlined by including orders and administrative fees. A $100 fee will be charged for second and subsequent orders issued to the same property, when there has been no change in property ownership. 
  7. Revised sign permit fees - The fees are set to achieve full cost recovery for the sign program.

Council directed staff to revise the new by-law to increase real estate open house directional signs from three to five per open house. Community mobile signs will be further reviewed in 2019, as staff were directed to report back to the Planning and Development Council on the feasibility of adding additional community mobile sign locations in each ward. Staff will also be reviewing election sign regulations.

Review the Sign By-Law Review staff report from the December 10, 2018, Planning and Development Council meeting.

Why have a sign by-law?

Local businesses are important to Oakville’s economy and contribute to the town’s vibrant communities. Through the use of signs, local businesses can promote the goods and services they provide to generate business, create brand recognition within the community, and communicate broadly with the public.

The regulations outlined in the town’s current Sign By-law 2006-005 are in place to:

  • Guide the types of advertising signs that are allowed on public property and on the property of business locations;
  • Support the town’s objectives to manage visual clutter, ensure the health and safety of the public, and preserve Oakville’s unique character, streetscape compatibility and priority intended for on-site first-party signs throughout the town; and
  • Provide a balance between the town’s objectives and the advertising interests of businesses.

Why was a review the sign by-law undertaken?

Sign By-law 2006-005 has been in effect for 10 years with multiple amendments that have affected the regulation of various sign types including but not limited to mobile signs, fascia signs and advertising signs. A review was initiated to ensure the town’s regulations address the needs of local businesses, while reflecting the town’s objectives and unique character.

The four guiding principles of the review are:

  1. Health and safety: The design, location, maintenance, and operation of signs should not pose a safety hazard for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians
  2. Maintaining the community character: Signs should be compatible with their surroundings, reflect the town’s unique character, overall planning and design objectives and contribute positively to a livable environment
  3. Economic development: Signs should contribute to the economic well-being of businesses and communities
  4. Respecting charter rights: Balancing of the town’s objectives with the interests of the business community by ensuring that rights of commercial expression are minimally impaired for the purposes of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In 2017, residents and members of the business community provided input at public open houses and through an online survey. Visual display slides from the open house with key facts and questions identified by staff are available for review.

On November 7, 2016, a staff report presented at the Administrative Services Committee meeting provided details on the sign by-law review.


Please send your comments by email to