The last thing new business owner Brigitte Bérubé wants to do is complain. After several months of massive renovation at 80 Main Street East in Vankleek Hill, now the home of “The Pantry”, Bérubé has nothing but praise for the township’s building and by-law department.
And so it came as a surprise when a by-law enforcement officer sporting a bullet-proof vest showed up at her business during business hours to tell her to get a permit for her sign or take it down.
“I felt it was a little aggressive and it was in front of other customers. It’s intimidating to have someone come and talk like that, when Mr. (Jacques) Gauthier was so amazing and helpful,” said Bérubé.
Bérubé questioned whether a by-law enforcement officer needs to dress like “a storm trooper.”
Jacques Gauthier, who is a senior building official with Champlain Township, said he agrees that staff should not be speaking about building or permit issues in front of a business owner’s customers.
“Maybe it would be a good idea to have a check-list of things that new business owners need to know,” he agreed, along with contacting businesses from time to time to let them know that if they alter or install a new sign, they need to obtain a permit before doing so.
“Signs are very complicated. There are lots of rules,” says Gauthier. Signs cannot stick out and cannot be on township property, there is a maximum sign size; care must be taken as to how they are erected, Gauthier continued.
The permit fee to alter a sign is $61; a permit for a new sign costs $102.
As for the bullet-proof attire, Gauthier said that most by-law enforcement staff in Prescott-Russell have the same uniform. “Some even have handcuffs,” he added.
But Gauthier, who is not working enforcement, does not wear a bullet-proof vest.
“But I can tell you that it is the uniform that gives us authority. It isn’t enough to make a call in regular clothes,” he said.
Gauthier, who said that Bérubé was an excellent client to work with, said that the by-law enforcement officer has been particularly busy this summer and perhaps had not had time to mention the need for a sign permit to Bérubé before now.
“I know he has a book with a picture of every sign so that as he travels around, he notices if a sign has been changed or if a new sign has been put up,” Gauthier said.
For her part, Bérubé says that as a new business owner, “You’re on your own and you have to navigate the waters on your own,” she said.
“I just think there has to be a better way,” Bérubé ended.