Montreal Signage By-laws (1890-2001)
Researched and Compiled by Michael Lithgow
NB. This table attempts to track the changes to signage by-laws in Montreal from their first appearance to the present day. Relevant details, significant changes and additions are summarized for each by-law. Relevant provisions summarized remain in effect unless otherwise stated in the Descriptions of subsequent by-laws. These notes are offered informally: they are neither comprehensive nor a substitute for inspecting the bylaws themselves.1890, March 24
No.183 By-law to suppress the use of projecting signs.
First sign by-laws introduced in Montreal. Imported from Paris. Prohibiting signs from extending over the sidewalk more than six inches on penalty of fine or up to two months imprisonment.
1901, December 27
No.270 By-law governing streets, roads and highways.
Prohibiting structures or streamers from being placed across streets, alleys and public places without authorization
1912, December 2
No. 464 By-law concerning illuminated signs.
Section 1 – “Any electric name, word, letter, sign device or representation in the nature of an advertisement, announcement or direction, formed of electric bulbs, and containing at least one lamp every six inches, hung or attached to the wall of any building over the public sidewalk, shall alone be deemed to be an illuminated or electric sign, for the purposes of this by-law.”
Notes: Notwithstanding by-law No. 270, the City Surveyor may recommend permits for hanging illuminated or electric signs to buildings, projecting more than six inches over the sidewalk. The restrictions are that the signs cannot extend over more than half of the sidewalk and must be higher than 10 feet above the sidewalk or as approved by the City Surveyor.
Lamps for illuminated or electric signs were required to burn at all times except for – and they were forbidden from burning on – Sunday from “7 p.m. to 12 p.m. from the 1st of April to the 1st of October, and from 6 o’clock p.m. to 12 p.m. from the 2nd of October to the 31st of May”.
A sketch of the sign and attachment structures had to be filed with the Inspector of Buildings for approval.
Permits were issued for one year only and had to be renewed.
1914, October 26
No.539 By-law to replace by-law No.464 entitled “By-law concerning illuminated signs”.
Notes: Allows signs to extend over up to half the sidewalk if the sidewalk is 12 or more feet wide, but otherwise up to six feet.
Makes specific requirements for illumination: “…in order to attain the desired degree of illumination, all the aforesaid illuminated signs be constructed in such a manner that the electric lamps or bulbs forming the electric lettering or design of such signs shall be outwardly exposed upon the faces of the sign, and that the area of the faces of the said signs so exposed and illuminated shall contain at least one electric lamp or bulb for each square foot of said faces.”
If a sign was illuminated, a minimum of 75% of the face of the sign had to be illuminated.
“The lamps of all illuminated signs shall burn from dusk to midnight, every day, except Sunday.”
Repeals by-law No. 464.
1916, January 17
No.592 By-law to amend by-law No.539 entitled “By-law to replace by-law No.464 entitled “By-law concerning illuminated signs”.
1916, October 23
No.608 By-law concerning illuminated signs.
The regulation of signage moved to even greater prescriptive detail, requiring the lettering or design to be illuminated “by means of electric lamps or bulbs outwardly exposed placed and not more than six inches apart, when forming part of the lettering, and not more than 10 inches apart when forming part of the design…”.
“No painted lettering or design shall be allowed on illuminated electric signs, except on the portion inwardly illuminated.”
“The lamps of all illuminated electric signs shall burn from dusk to eleven o’clock in the evening, every day except Sunday, but it shall not be forbidden to have them burning on Sunday.”
Sketches of signs and supporting structures had to be approved by the Superintendent of Buildings.
Repeals by-laws No(s).464, 539 and 592
1924, May 15
No.853 By-law to amend by-law No.608 entitled “By-law concerning electric signs”
The detailed prescriptions concerning the illumination of lettring and design was amended to read “by means of outwardly exposed Tungsten electric lamps of not less than five watts, or any other lamps of equivalent illuminating power…fifty (50) per cent of all of which lamps shall be of clear glass…”
Painted lettering was now allowed on signs if “such lettering be entirely studded with electric lamps…” .
1928, May 4
No.954 By-law concerning illuminated signs and to repeal By-laws 464, 539, 608, 853
Introduces provisions for “the type of glass tubes containing a gas rendered luminous by the introduction of an electrical current” i.e. neon illuminated signage (in addition to Tungsten electric, internally lighted transparent glass, and outwardly illuminated).
Internally lighted transparent glass signage were required to have electric lamps of 40 watts per square foot.
Increasingly detailed prescriptions for signage construction, supports and bracing
1948, November 4
No.1900 By-law concerning the erection of buildings in the City of Montreal
1963, October 31
No.2889 By-law concerning signs
Substantial re-write and expansion of signage by-laws (the previous by-laws were about 15 paragraphs long; 2889 contains 98 paragraphs).
Building logos appear to be contemplated under Article 1.1(d): “the crests, lettering and designs made up of materials incorporated with the building materials of the structure”.
“Illuminated signs” are defined as “signs, which cast artificial light directly, as well as those the lettering or design of which is lighted by any lighting equipment placed somewhere on the sign”.
Article I-4 exempts “signs installed on private property, which do not project more than six (6) inches over the public domain and the area of which does not exceed twenty-four (24) square feet” from parts 4 (Building requirements) and 6 (Installation permits) of the by-laws – and, it exempts “signs which advertise an establishment existing in a building” from the “provisions of City by-laws which prohibit accessory structures between the building line and the street line”.
Extraordinary engineering detail concerning structures of supports, ice loads, materials, etc.
Repeals by-laws No.(s) 89; 464; 539; 592; 608; 635; 651; 740; 853; 954; 1025; 1042 (as pertains to signs and posters); 1144; 2129; and portions of many, many other by-laws.
1966, June 21
No.3309 Amendment to By-law no. 2889 concerning signs
1967, April 21
No.3447 Amendment to By-law no. 2889 entitled: By-law concerning signs, as already amended by By-law No. 3309
1967, May 23
No.3456 Amendment to By-law No. 2889 concerning signs, as already amended by By-laws Nos. 3309 and 3447
By-laws amended to apply to any 3rd party who creates, installs, alters, maintains or repairs signs on behalf of their owner [NB. is this amendment in response to a court decision?].
Article 7-1 is amended to place a 10 year cap on allowance for grandfathered signs that are temporarily removed for whatever reason
1967, December 7
No.3594 Amendment to By-law No.2889 concerning signs, as already amended by By-laws Nos.3309, 3447 and 3456
1968, July 31
No.3696 Amendment to By-law No.2889 concerning signs, as already amended by By-laws Nos.3309, 3447, 3456 and 3594
1968, September 27
No.3712 Amendment to By-law No.2889 concerning signs, as already amended by By-laws Nos. 3309, 3447, 3456, 3594 and 3696
Article 6 is amended to introduce a “special annual tax” for signs
No.3818 Amendment to By-law No.2889 concerning signs, as already amended by By-laws Nos. 3309, 3447, 3456, 3594, 3696 and 3712
1977, June 22
No.5128 By-law concerning signs, billboards and advertising units
s.13.1 -- “…any building with a total floor area of more than one thousand eight hundred and fifty square metres (1850m2) may be identified by means of a sign.”
s.17 – “A building may be identified on each of its walls by means of an illuminated sign not limited as to area, provided the lowest part of the sign is located more than thirty meters (30m) above ground…”
Additional criteria were imposed on the size and shape of building signs that would have an impact on design: If illuminiated, they could project no more than 23 cm from the wall (if not, 15 cm); Must be made of non-combustible materials or approved combustible plastics; The part of the sign exceeding the line intersecting the roof plane and that of the façade shall not exceed one-third (1/3) of the total height of the sign.
Special provisions were made for signs appearing on certain streets.
1978, August 15
No.5258 By-law amending By-law 5128 concerning signs, billboards and advertising
1980, January 21
No.5421 By-law amending the by-law concerning signs, billboards and advertising units (5128, 5258)
1983, November 15
No.6274 By-law amending the by-law concerning signs, billboards and advertising units (5128, 5258, 5421)
1984, May 17
No.6429 By-law amending the by-law concerning signs, billboards and advertising units (5128, 5258, 5421, 6274)
1984, October 22
No.6518 By-law amending the by-law concerning signs, billboards and advertising units (5128, 5258, 5421, 6274 and 6429)
1985, August 26
No.6755 By-law amending the by-law concerning signs, billboards and advertising units (5128, 5258, 5421, 6274, 6429 and 6518)
1985, December 16
No.6885 By-law amending the by-law concerning signs, billboards and advertising units (5128, 5258, 5421, 6274, 6429, 6518 and 6755)
1986, October 16
No.7169 By-law amending the by-law concerning signs, billboards and advertising units (5128, 5258, 5421, 6274, 6429, 6518, 6755 and 6885)
1989, March 31
No.8080 By-law providing for discharge payment with respect to violations of By-law 5128 (as amended)
1990, April 10
No.8454 By-law amending the by-law concerning signs, billboards and advertising units (5128, 5258, 5421, 6274, 6429, 6518, 6755, 6885, 7169 and 8080)
1991, January 29
No.8753 By-law amending the by-law concerning signs, billboards and advertising units (5128, 5258, 5421, 6274, 6429, 6518, 6755, 6885, 7169, 8080 and 8454)
1992, October 19
No.9243 By-law amending the by-law concerning signs, billboards and advertising units (5128)
1992, December 11
No.9287 By-law amending various by-law provisions concerning the amounts of fines
No. 9534 [en francais seulment]
1994, August 8
94-077 By-law concerning the urban planning of the City of Montreal
Signs must not be mistaken for public signs (464) or be “glaring or harmful” (465).
Quotas are established (487) for building signs higher than the first two levels above the ground floor: max. area of sign = (Q1 area quota in article 481) x (floor area of an establishment) / 100
No part of sign laid flat against a building may exceed 16m in height (489).
Signs in Old Montreal are subject to special provisions and approval. They must be in harmony with the architecture of the buildings they are affixed to and in harmony with the atmosphere of the street (510).
By-laws specifically addressing signage at the top of tall buildings is introduced for the first time – Title V, Chapter 1, Section XII Extra Height Sectors. Signs in “extra height sectors” laid flat on the wall of a building at a height over 16m “must be approved in accordance with section III of the By-law concerning the procedure for the approval of construction, alternation or occupancy projects and concerning the Commission Jaques-Viger (chapter P-7)” (513). The criteria for approving or rejecting these signs are: “(a) signs must be in harmony with the architecture of buildings and contribute to their enhancement; (b) the size, number and diversity of signs must correspond to the minimum required to identify the building or its main use, the building itself being the main indicator of its presence or its use; (c) the use of a logo is preferable to written message” (513).
1999, May 17
99–102 By-law concerning cleanliness and protection of public property and street furniture
Repeals by-law No. 270
2001, December 17
01-282 Urban planning by-law for Ville-Marie borough
Title V, Chapter I, Section XII is renamed to: Names of Immovables
Every sign bearing the name of an immovable installed higher than 16m must be approved in accordance with title VIII. The criteria for rejecting or approving these signs are: “(1) signs must be in harmony with the architecture of the building and contribute to its enhancement; (2) signs must be in harmony with the character and atmosphere of the street or sector; (3) the sign area may not be grater than the area determined under the formula E=0.1 m2 x Hf, wqhere E corresponds to the sign area and Hf corresponds to the height at which signs are installed, in multiples of 1m; (4) the use of a detached symbol constituting a logo is preferable to written message; (5) no more than one sign higher than 16m may be visible from the same point, including existing signs” (517).
“The decision to approve or reject signs must be based on the following evaluation criteria: (1) the name of an immovable may not refer to an establishment with an area quota; (2) signs must be in harmony with the architecture of the building or the site development and contribute to their enhancement; (3) signs must be in harmony with the character an atmosphere of the street or sector; (4) the size and number of signs must correspond to the minimum required to identify the immovable” (519).