Nova Scotia

CBRM takes aim at bright electronic billboards near homes

Cape Breton Regional Municipality has banned ads on utility poles and is looking into regulating large black mobile advertising signs. Now, it's adding large electronic billboards to the list of signs possibly facing permits and restrictions.

'I can see a giant Big Mac staring me in the face 24/7,' says Sydney, N.S., resident Kat Alleyne

Kat Alleyne says there should be some regulations around bright electronic billboards, like the one on Grand Lake Road in Sydney, N.S., which is about 30 metres away from her home. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Cape Breton Regional Municipality may soon begin regulating and charging permit fees for large electronic billboards.

One sign in Sydney is close to a residential neighbourhood and people living there are annoyed by the brightness of the advertising.

"Whether I'm downstairs in my basement, in my kitchen or up in my bathroom or my daughter's room, I can see a giant Big Mac staring me in the face 24/7," said Kat Alleyne.

The electronic billboard is on Grand Lake Road, about 30 metres from Alleyne's home on McGuire Drive.

It quickly cycles through ads for fast food, a federal business agency, a national lottery and several local businesses.

Resident says she doesn't need to turn her lights on

Alleyne said at night, she has to close four layers of heavy curtains so her daughter can sleep.

"I have every light off in the house," she said.

"I don't even need night lights in my house. It's like I have a tonne, but I don't need them on."

Coun. Jim MacLeod says CBRM will hold a workshop on Feb. 4 to consider regulating and charging permit fees for mobile advertising signs and electronic billboards. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Alleyne said she understands the need for businesses to advertise, but she's hoping for some kind of compromise.

"I'm not saying they should take it away, because I understand a lot of people do notice the signs and the advertising on it," she said.

"But shouldn't there be a certain hour of time it's shut down for the evening, like [when] there's not heavy traffic flowing through that late at night? Something that can be convenient or fair with the people that live around the area."

Sign company makes changes

Pattison Outdoor Advertising is the company that owns the sign. Sherry Kirwin, general manager of Atlantic operations, said the billboard's electronic settings were adjusted remotely by computer on Tuesday.

"We looked at the settings this morning when we got the complaint," she said. "We did a few adjustments and it should be fine and we don't expect to have any other complaints from the local citizens.

"The time clock was off, so when it would be supposed to dim when it would start to get dark, it was actually not dimming for a number of hours after it should have, so there was just a quick setting adjustment there, and also a brightness setting that we made more consistent to what it should be at night time."

Kirwin said until now, the company has not received any complaints about its electronic billboards.

Company says it welcomes bylaws, regulations

She said the company has digital signs all across Canada and it welcomes regulations that make the rules clear for everyone.

"Actually it's a positive that there are bylaws and regulations set up, because it does help so that we don't interfere with the community and the residents," Kirwin said.

Coun. Jim MacLeod pushed council to ban ads on utility poles last year and helped strike a committee to look into large black mobile signs with neon lettering.

MacLeod said the committee hasn't produced any results yet, and now electronic billboards should be added to the list, because they are starting to intrude into people's homes.

Alleyne says she understands the need for businesses to advertise, but she's hoping for some kind of compromise, such as restrictions on bright lights late at night near homes. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

"While I appreciate the committee, I also have to appreciate that we've got ... environmental eyesores," he said.

"I can tell you that you would think you're sitting watching the hockey game, and the flash of colours, you know, nobody should have to put up with this."

MacLeod said the municipality's planning department will hold a workshop on Feb. 4 to consider where mobile signs and electronic billboards should be permitted, whether they should have minimum setbacks from homes and whether a permit fee should be charged.



Tom Ayers


Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for 36 years. He has spent half of them covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?