Back-lit signs could potentially become more common in five commercial and industrial districts of Cochrane if an amendment to the land-use bylaw is passed by town council. The proposed amendment would also allow for a more clear and consistent process for those seeking the signs.

Last night, council set the stage for a Mar. 25 public hearing for the proposal. Feedback received from both the Cochrane Planning Commission (CPC) and the public will form part of that discussion.

The planning department is proposing back-lit signs be listed as a discretionary-use in a commercial shopping centre (C-SC), highway commercial (C-HWY), service commercial district (C-s), business park (M-BP) and general industrial (M-1). It excludes Cochrane’s Historic Downtown.

Back-lit signs have been prohibited since early 2015, but some have been approved as variances. The town has received several applications for back-lit signs over the past year, council was told last night, and that demand has led to the proposed change.

The proposed amendment would clearly give the authority to the Cochrane Planning Commission to determine which applications will proceed. It would also come with regulations to address concerns over back-lit signage.

These regulations include:

- limiting sign brightness to 6,000 lumens and requiring the sign to be dimmed by half the original intensity between the hours of 2200-0600;

- providing the development authority with the discretion to reduce the brightness of a back-lit sign;

- providing the development authority with the discretion to limit the number of back-lit signs on a property; and

- providing "dark sky friendly" and sign lighting impact considerations.

As the bylaw stands, the CPC does not actually have the ability to approve variances and the amendments aim to address the entire issue in a consistent and fair manner.

“The big thing is we want it to be a clear path and there needs to be consistency. I think people can make arguments that because they were prohibited there hasn’t been consistency and it hasn’t been fair to business.”

“There are a number of different perspectives on this issue. What we wanted to do is to have an interim measure so they can be considered until we’re finished the land-use bylaw and then through the land-use bylaw the intent would be to have a clear and consistent policy and implementation of that policy as well.”

Should council approved the amendment it would not only be a game-changer for new businesses but those previously denied back-lit signs would have the opportunity to reapply.

“If council were to approve and give CPC that power then existing businesses that didn’t have it could go through that process or they could wait and provide input that will help shape the ultimate process as well,” says Hyndman.

Town council pressed for this discussion to occur in advance of completing the update of the land-use bylaw, says Hyndman.

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