Victoria council unanimously approved an amendment to its controversial sandwich board bylaw Thursday night, lowering the annual fee by $100 after outcry from local businesses.
The bylaw, which took effect Jan. 16 after public consultation, requires businesses to apply for a permit to place one advertising board on city sidewalks.
But at a committee meeting Thursday morning, Mayor Dean Fortin brought forward a motion to lower fees from $135 to $35 annually after council heard feedback from small downtown businesses, some of whom felt they were being unfairly charged.
“The original proposal was defensible on the grounds of rental of public space, but … I’m very aware our downtown business community … are feeling under pressure,” said Coun. Jeff Young.
A one-time $60 application fee will remain to cover staff costs for assessing the placement of portable signs.
“Sometimes you wake up a few days later and you go, ‘What was I thinking,'” Coun. Marianne Alto said. “Some of our earlier ideas were unjustifiably costly.”
At least 40 business owners who have already paid the higher portable sign fee will be refunded accordingly at city hall, Rob Woodland, director of legislative and regulatory services, told councillors.
“We’re doing this because we don’t want the sidewalks cluttered with signs,” Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe said at the committee meeting. “Charging or making it more difficult for small businesses was not an intention.”
Annual business licence renewals must also be paid by Feb. 15 to avoid a $25 late fee.