Grimsby council rejects sign proposal protecting freedom of expression 5-4

John Smees, a resident on Main Street West, has taken in his sign while he consults a lawyer. In behind is a Heritage not Condos sign which was not questioned.

By Mike Williscraft

After a resident was threatened with a fine for a lawn sign questioning his Ward 3 representation, Grimsby Coun. Lianne Vardy sought to remedy Charter of Rights and Freedoms concerns on Monday night.

Vardy’s Notice of Motion to bring in a bylaw to “sever and repeal” part of the town’s sign bylaw was rejected in a 5-4 vote of council.

The issue started when Main Street East resident John Smees posted a sign on his lawn which read, “Who speaks for the people of Ward 3?”

Smees was told it was an election sign and he faced a fine if it was not removed. Since then, it was determined it was not an election sign and town bylaw officials have initiated a program of “education” since.

Smees said last week it have been a little more than that, since he has found a Town bylaw vehicle parked in front of his home.

On Monday, Coun. Dorothy Bothwell suggested a friendly amendment to Vardy’s motion, noting measures taken in Port Hope to deal with Charter concerns and to allow “private advocacy signs”. In Grimsby, these would include Save & Rebuild WLMH and Save The Woodlot-style signs.

Coun. Kevin Ritchie called the amended motion too wordy, and said he wanted staff input. Vardy’s Notice of Motion was Feb. 16, but staff had no report or details for council to consider.

While several key policies, such as the Code of Conduct – which came right to council and was approved 5-4 – have been pushed through, Coun. Dave Sharpe asked “please stop doing that”, to Vardy and Bothwell.

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