Three years after Richmond Hill council tested out the GTA’s most restrictive open house sign policy to tackle sign pollution, residents have found themselves coming up against scores of “slow down” signage popping up across the city over the past month.
Behind these signs are two councillors who voted for banning realtors’ information on open house signs in 2019.
Since this May, residents from across the city say they have spotted two types of “slow down” signs — black and white ones with Regional Coun. Carmine Perrelli’s website at the bottom, and yellow ones with Coun. Greg Beros’ website.
Perrelli said “ …seeing as the City of Richmond Hill does not offer slow down lawn signs, I initiated a Please Slow Down Community Safety Event, as a gentle reminder to motorists that unsafe driving puts everyone at risk.”
He said the event was created in response to requests from many residents.
Beros did not respond to a request for comment.
“If the purpose is really (about) slowing down the cars, why did he put his website there?” Richmond Hill realtor Majid Zohari asked.
Katie Vee Kay, an Oak Ridges resident who has seen Beros’s yellow signs, said they looked like “advertising.”
“Councillors’ names should not be on individual signage unless it’s part of the campaign during those days,” she said.
Neither Perrelli nor Beros have registered to run for office in the fall election as of June 30. The city’s sign bylaw doesn’t allow anyone to display an election sign in advance of four weeks before voting day, which is scheduled for Oct. 24 this year.
It is unclear how Perrelli and Beros funded these signs.
Perrelli’s events account has been frozen as the city has requested that he repay $140,000 for an event he ran last summer.
The regional councillor’s signs have been all over Richmond Hill — on publicstreets, in the corner of residential roads or around the neighborhoods— while Beros’ signs are mostly in his ward in Oak Ridges, according to residents.
“This is a double standard,” Zohari said. “How come these councillors can put signs all over the city at the time of an election or for any reason, while the same councillors pushed so hard to restrict us from putting bread on the table for our family?”
Richmond Hill currently allows only one open house sign — two if the open house is at a corner lot — which is not practical, the realtor said.
It turns out the “slow down” signs are not legal.
While Perrelli denied that his signs violated the city’s bylaw, city spokesperson Libbi Hood told the Liberal that the two councillors’ signs “are contrary to the city’s sign bylaw and are not permitted on city property, nor on privately owned lands.”
The city will remove the “slow down” signs from municipal boulevards as the staff become aware of them, Hood said.
Coincidentally at a council meeting in May, Coun. Castro Liu prepared a proposal to allow city-wide “slow down” signs — with no other messaging — but ended up withdrawing it.
Liu told the Liberal he initiated the idea of a generic “slow down” signs with neighbor watch in his ward about two years ago and would like to make it happen citywide.
However, he decided to pull back the motion after learning about concerns about compliance with the sign by law and budgetary issues, although he hopes to bring it forward again in the future.
“I chose to abide by the bylaw,” Liu said. “It had nothing to do with Perrelli’s signs. I had no idea he was putting up those signs.”
While the city has received several complaints from the residents about Perrelli’s and Beros’ signs, many “slow down” signs could still be seen on Richmond Hill streets as of the last week of June.
“If any councillor, by any means, wants to distribute or install signs all over the city, what will happen? They just add to the sign pollution. This is wrong,” Zohari said.
Sign pollution has been a long-standing issue in Richmond Hill for years. In 2019, council adopted a six-month controversial pilot program to ban any realtor’s information on open house signs across the city.
Perrelli introduced the idea and said the nameless signs would discourage self-advertisement.
Since the pilot program ended, Richmond Hill has updated its sign bylaw twice, resulting in what Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB) president Kevin Crigger described as a “somewhat more restrictive” sign bylaw toward real estate open house signs than other municipalities.
Having worked with city staff and council on its sign bylaws, the TRREB believes the current one is “an appropriate response to their local circumstances,” Crigger said.
He noted enforcement should be made a priority.
STORY BEHIND THE STORY: Having learned are concerned about signs popping up across Richmond Hill, reporter Sheila Wang reached out to councillors, the city and TRREB to find residents out the purpose and the legality of the signage.