SCUGOG: Councillors recently gave their approval for the Public Art Advisory Committee to proceed with a design for a gateway sign to be placed across from the SmartCentres location, facing west on Hwy. 7A.
As part of a motion brought up by Regional Councillor Bobbie Drew, the project cost would be capped at $25,000, with the money being drawn from Scugog’s SmartCentres development charges account.
The design, done by local artist, and advisory committee member Jonathan van Bilsen, sees pillars on either side of the sign, with the words ‘Historic Downtown Port Perry’ in gold lettering as well as the slogan “Lakeside shopping and dining experience.” On the top of the black and red sign are silhouettes of the tops of buildings in the township.
The project was started in 2009, when then Mayor Marilyn Pearce urged council to replace a welcome sign near the intersection of Queen St. and Hwy. 7A that had fallen into disrepair. The goal of the new sign is to direct traffic to the downtown core. Mr. van Bilsen said that he got involved with the project shortly after joining the advisory committee, adding that shortly after taking on the project, there was a lot of research to undertake.
“I contacted (The Ministry of Transportation) first to see what the rules were because I thought they should be involved. There are a lot of rules.” he said. “I then talked to three sign companies about the logistics and got a lot of information from them and I asked them to submit an idea, something that MTO could use. There were lots of problems, a big one was size, we were restricted to a 16 feet by 8 feet sign. You also couldn’t put it on third party property.”
He said that after submitting a preliminary design to MTO and garnering approval, he ran into another issue, not having enough room for the sign on MTO property.
“I talked to SmartCentres, and asked them if they could donate a piece of land to put the sign on. They took it one step closer and they lobbied MTO on our behalf. It took about a month and a half and they were very successful in changing the rules, where now you can put gateway signs on third party property,” Mr. van Bilsen explained.
The next step for Mr. van Bilsen in the process is to work with interim CAO Don Gordon to craft requests for proposals, and send them to all local sign companies. He also said that the committee is currently looking at lighting the sign with gooseneck solar lights.
Ward 1 Councillor Betty Somerville questioned if the township would be on the hook for some of the costs. Mr. van Bilsen explained that the township would likely have to pay the ongoing maintenance costs, such as changing the light bulbs every few years.
Ward 2 Councillor Janna Guido lauded the work that Mr. van Bilsen has done.
“As the council representative for the BIA, I can say that they will be elated that there is movement on the sign that they have so passionately have been waiting for,” she said.