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City denies bid for empty billboard to become operational again

The derelict billboard on top of the Casa Loma building looks like it won't be changing any time soon. Timm Bruch / Global News

The empty billboard at Portage and Sherbrook will remain empty – at least for now.

The derelict sign on top of the Casa Loma building has had its bid to re-establish operational status rejected after Winnipeg’s Board of Adjustment voted in accordance with the planning department’s recommendations.

The city’s planners found the billboard in violation of a number of criteria when examining the application.

First off, it was more than three times the maximum allowable size.

It is also located on a heritage building, can be seen from neighbouring residential buildings and is located on a rooftop – all of which contravene Winnipeg’s bylaws governing billboards.

READ MORE: Vacant downtown Winnipeg billboard set for a sign redesign

Sussex Realty, which owns the building and the sign, wanted to get it up and running again to advertise for the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

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The sign had previously been granted operational status in 2014 when it appealed an unsuccessful decision in 2013.

However, issues with the contractor meant it did not meet its operational deadline in 2015, and thus the need to reapply years later.

Cindy Tugwell, executive director of Heritage Winnipeg, said the billboard should have been looked at more closely when the building was designated as a heritage structure back in 2003.

“We’re just here to support something happening because status quo is not acceptable,” Tugwell said.

She said she was “perplexed” the owner couldn’t just remove the sign, but was pleased to learn that the city does have the power to get it taken down.

The rejection of the application means the city can get the sign removed under zoning regulations as it is an abandoned billboard.

“Once a billboard is not being used as a billboard for two years or longer, it can be classified as being an abandoned sign,” city planner Andrew Ross said.

“And if it is an abandoned sign, zoning may undertake a process to order removal of the structure.”

The applicants have the ability to appeal the decision, but it’s unclear whether they will attempt to do so.

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