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OCC Digital Billboards Letter

OCC Digital Billboards Letter

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Published by: OpenFile on Feb 21, 2012
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[Your Name] [Street Address] [City, ST ZIP Code] February 11, 2012

[Recipient Name] [Title] City of Ottawa Dear [Recipient Name]: The community association of ___________________ is writing to officially register opposition to the proposal by the Ottawa Convention Centre (OCC) to erect large, digital, advertising, billboards on its south facing wall. Further, we are opposed to the National Capital Commission’s decision to allow the billboards for the duration of a three year pilot project. The OCC’s insistence on characterizing the advertising billboards as an “art wall” in order to receive approval from the NCC and the City of Ottawa is disingenuous. The OCC’s intent is to create massive, electronic advertising which broadcasts within a historic, residential and traffic intensive environment. These billboards will negatively impact the residents that live within close proximity, impose significant traffic safety issues, and introduce visual blight to a protected, cultural landscape within the Rideau Canal corridor. The OCC’s proposal includes :  erecting two, massive, digital billboards on the south wall of the OCC o measuring 94 and 129 square metres (collectively 223 square metres)     10 times the size of permitted billboards in the City 3 times the size of the Ikea wall sign

projecting full motion video and animation, complete with title bar that may include scrolling text broadcasting of commercial and promotional advertising the majority (67%) of usage time, including; o national brands, automotive, wireless, hotel, business equipment, energy providers, financial services, airline, media/print

operating between 6:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.

Infringement on Rights of Residents to Enjoyment of Property The excessive and intrusive illumination from the proposed advertising billboards will create significant light pollution for area residents. The scale, scope, content and animation of the advertising billboards will result in serious disruption to residents, infringing on their right to enjoyment of their properties. Generally, the proposed billboards will negatively impact residents’ well being and potentially reduce residential 2 property values . More specifically, the City is advised that any illuminated signage erected on the south wall of the OCC will be clearly and directly visible to residential properties located within 500-1100 metres of the wall. For hundreds of residents, the proposed OCC advertising billboards will project into their homes and through their windows due to the close proximity of the billboards to their properties.



NCC Board of Directors Meeting Minutes, June 30, 2011

Snyder, J. (2011). Beyond Aesthetics: How Billboards Affect Economic Prosperity. Samuel S. Fels Fund

Specifically, residential properties located at the following locations will be directly and negatively impacted:     10 The Driveway (500 metres from proposed OCC billboards) 20 The Driveway (700 metres from proposed OCC billboards) 40 The Driveway (800 metres from proposed OCC billboards Kings Landing Private (1100 metres from proposed OCC billboards)

If the City permits a three year pilot project to install the OCC billboards, it will subject residents to a protracted experiment that exposes them to negative impacts and unnecessary injury. For many of these residents, the massive billboards will be like large drive-in movie screens located directly outside their windows, broadcasting into their homes and bedrooms and affecting their ability to live and sleep. The OCC should not be permitted to use such residents as lab rats to collect data. The community would also like to avoid a situation in which the OCC, after a three year period, cites their inability to recoup their investment in the billboards as a way to extend their temporary permit, in spite of the negative impacts to residents. A recent and similar situation occurred in the City when residents were negatively impacted by the Royal Ottawa sign.

Significant Traffic Safety Risks for Vehicles and Pedestrians The location of the proposed billboards will also introduce significant traffic safety risks to vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians. The billboards will be highly visible from busy bridges and roadways with heavy vehicle and pedestrian traffic volumes, including:    Mackenzie King Bridge (proposed OCC billboards loom directly over bridge) Colonel By Drive (visible for 200 metres from proposed OCC billboards) Laurier Bridge (visible from 200 metres of proposed OCC billboards)

The proposed scale and animation of the advertising billboards combined with high traffic volumes, raises serious safety concerns about distraction hazards caused by the billboards, especially considering the high volumes of pedestrian and cycling circulation on both the Laurier and Mackenzie King bridges. With the City promoting multiple modes of transportation on roadways and pathways within the City’s urban core, it would be irresponsible to permit billboards at the proposed OCC site – it would be unsafe. It is important to note that an increasing number of jurisdictions have imposed bans on digital billboards for safety reasons, including Hawaii, Alaska, Maine and Vermont. Edmonton and Calgary are now in the process of imposing greater restrictions. Michigan has also recently introduced a statewide moratorium. And the cities of Vancouver, San Francisco, Austin, San Antonio, Denver and Tacoma do not permit digital billboards. The City should also be aware that independent behavioural studies have definitively shown that drivers look away from the roadway for prolonged intervals when presented with large, intensively lit and dynamic displays. This is, no doubt, the reason the OCC has plans to introduce the advertising billboards at this location. Finally, if the City permits the proposed OCC billboards, they’ll need to explain to residents the dissonance of permitting large, animated, distracting billboards visible from roadways and pathways at the same time that Ottawa Police are issuing tickets to distracted drivers that use cell phones. Impairs Heritage and Visual Values of Historic Sites and Rideau Canal The location of the proposed OCC advertising billboards impairs the culturally significant and protected viewscapes within the Rideau Canal Corridor. The proposed advertising billboards are clearly and directly visible along the “deep cut” of this UNESCO World Heritage Site located within the heart of the City. These massive


See attached table of references


billboards will also impair, dominate and distract from the sightlines of national historic sites so critical to the heritage character of our City including:    Chateau Laurier Old Union Station Parliament Hill

Parks Canada in its report dated February 28, 2011 has concluded, “that the installation of a digital screen on the exterior façade of the Ottawa Convention Centre detracts from the historic and visual values and exceptional visitor experience of the Rideau Canal…”. The Rideau Canal Landscape Strategy Steering Committee in its letter dated April 4 , 2011, stated it “is seriously concerned about the potential negative visual impact that the proposed digital screen on the Ottawa Convention Centre would have on the UNESCO World Heritage and National Historic site designation of the Rideau Canal.” The idea that enormous advertising billboards will attract new visitors to the area belies the unique visitor experience tourists currently enjoy when visiting the City of Ottawa, Canada’s capital. Advertising billboards do not attract tourist dollars to heritage locations – preservation of iconic historical sites and viewscapes do! In fact, other capital cities, such as Victoria B.C. and Washington D.C. ban any form of billboards! The proposed plan to erect large, advertising billboards within this heritage location will:     commercialize this historic location jeopardize the heritage designation of the canal create a jarring juxtaposition that shatters the harmony of its surroundings be contrary to the City’s urban design guidelines that protect heritage resources and residential communities

It’s important to note that in order to obtain site plan approval, the OCC was explicitly barred from having both illuminated and advertising signage visible from the Rideau Canal and Parkways. For the City to now allow OCC’s proposed billboards via a waiver of sign by-laws, would reward efforts on the part of the OCC to pursue approval via a lower standard and suggests bad faith. Further, in light of the negative impacts on residents and potential traffic safety risks, any suggestion by the City that broadcasting occasional public service announcements or special events somehow justifies the existence of the proposed advertising billboards is not acceptable to the community. Conclusion In conclusion, we implore the City of Ottawa and the Planning Committee to deny any application and/or waiver request brought by the Ottawa Convention Centre to erect massive advertising billboards on its south wall. Please ensure that Mr. Bird and Mr. Kelly do not negatively impact residents, traffic safety and our heritage sites for the sake of commercial advertising. Sincerely,


Planning Committee

/cc Russell Mills, Chairman of the Board, National Capital Commission /cc Marie Lemay, CEO, National Capital Commission


Beijer, D.D. (2002). Driver distraction due to roadside advertising. University of Toronto, Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Beijer, D. D., Smiley, A., & Eizenman, M. (2004). Observed driver glance behavior at roadside advertising. Transportation Research Record, No. 1899, 96-103. Fisher, D. (2009). Presentation to the Human Factors Workshop on Visual Clutter in the Road Environment. Washington, DC: Transportation Research Board 88th Annual Meeting. Smiley, A., Smahel, T., and Eizenman, M. (2004). Impact of Video Advertising on Driver Fixation Patterns. Transportation Research Record 1899, 76-83. Smiley, A., Persaud, B., Bahar, G., Mollett, C., Lyon, C., Smahel, T., & Kelman, W.L. (2005). Traffic Safety Evaluation of Video Advertising Signs. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, No. 1937, pp. 105-112. Washington, DC: TRB. Young, M.S., & Mahfoud, J.M. (2007). Driven to Distraction: Determining the Effects of Roadside Advertising on Driver Attention. Final report of a Study Funded by The Rees Jeffreys Road Fund. West London: Brunel University.


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