Sign of the times: 92-year-old Moncton business told it's broken heritage law

After 92 years at the same location on Main Street in Moncton, Keating's Tobacco moved down the street to a new building.

City says LED sign on Keating's Tobacco doesn't meet heritage bylaws for downtown area

Steve Vasseur says he's been told the contemporary sign on his new shop has to go because the new building falls within a heritage zone on Main Street. (Kate Letterick/CBC News )

After 92 years at the same location on Main Street in Moncton, Keating's Tobacco moved down the street to a new building.

But owner Steve Vasseur says he's been told the new $6,000 LED sign he had made for the business has to go.

"I had the sign made in advance of it because I didn't know you actually needed permission to advertise your own building, especially on a brand new building," Vasseur said.

The new building replaced one that burned to the ground in 2000.

It's flanked by two buildings that are considered heritage sites.

Vasseur says the LED sign cost s$6,000 and is needed to make the business visible. (Kate Letterick/CBC News )

Jean-Pierre Charron, the City of Moncton's senior planner for heritage conservation, said that even though the building is new, it retains a heritage status as part of the downtown heritage conservation area.

That means the plastic, back-lit box sign is not permitted under heritage bylaws, he said.

Vasseur disagrees with the decision made by the Heritage Board on Feb. 8.

"It's been a continuous battle of them telling me to get my sign down and put up antiquated signage, which can't be seen very visible by our customers, and the object of being in business is to be seen and be visible," said Vasseur.

Jean-Pierre Charron, senior planner for heritage conservation, says the building where the store is located is new, but it falls in the downtown heritage conservation area. (Submitted)

"There's too many rules and laws and regulations to try and start a small business. It's difficult enough that the city is always talking about business, getting business down here yet they seem to make it as difficult as possible for us to operate under that mandate of growth and progress."

Vasseur points to other businesses in the area that have bright signs.

Describing the downtown heritage area, the city says on its website that some buildings and architecture reflect the commercial development of the city from the late 1800s through the early 20th century, when natural materials such as wood, stone and brick were common. 

Jean-Pierre Charron said the signage must reflect the historical nature of the area.

Keating's Tobacco has a chance to appeal the ruling by heritage board. (Kate Letterick/CBC News)

"It's not to say the city doesn't want signage to go up on buildings," he said. "It's quite the contrary. On heritage-designated building sites, we just want the signs to be a bit more tuned to the character, the heritage value of the district or the conservation area."

Charron said there is a 15-day appeals period after a heritage board decision.

And Vasseur said he will follow that process.

"I would like to settle it with the city peacefully and equitably, so that this battle, unnecessary battle to me, doesn't need to continue," he said.

"But if need be, I will go the distance before I'm going to remove my sign. Others will have to remove theirs that are so-called heritage sites as well." 

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