Ministry of Transportation / Ministère des Transports
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Corridor Signing Policy

2. Definitions And Explanations

Advertising or Decorative Devices
An advertising or decorative device is a device, other than a recognized or standard type of sign that is placed, or affixed, to advertise, attract attention, or to promote publicity for an individual firm, organization, product or event. They include devices of a decorative nature (i.e. landscaping), banners, bunting, streamers, strings of flags or multiple flag installations, lights, or other such devices. They are all subject to the approval of the Ministry.
Agricultural Product
An agricultural product means an agricultural product that is not edible, an agricultural food product or a food product that is processed on a farm in Ontario from an agricultural food product.
Area of a Sign
Area of a sign means the number of square metres (square feet) on the surface of a sign including the border and/or frame.
  1. Where a sign has no border and/or frame, the area will be composed of individually installed letters, numerals or other shapes, excluding spacing; and
  2. Where a sign is supported by a structure secured to the ground and which is not supported by any building or other structure, the sign area will be the number of square metres (square feet) on the surface of a sign including the border and/or frame.
Back to Back Sign Structures Located on Private Property
"Back to back" for the purpose of this policy shall mean either,
  1. Two signs affixed directly to one another with no open space which is visible from the highway, or
  2. Two signs erected in the form of a "V" with the closed end of the "V" nearest to the highway.
Billboard Sign
A billboard sign is a sign which contains a message that is not related to the property that the sign is located on.
The message on the billboard must not promote violence, hatred, or contempt against any identifiable group. Identifiable group means any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, ancestry, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation or disability.
Changeable Message Signs
A changeable message sign is a sign with the capability of content changes by means of mechanical or electronic input.  This type of sign displays changing static messages for a fixed duration.  It includes the following:
  1. Mechanical - a changeable sign whose display surface physically changes to reveal alternate messages, such as tri-vision or flip disc signs.
  2. Electronic - a changeable sign whose content can be changed by means of an electrically energised display matrix, such as an LED pixel board.
Community Business Message Board
A Community Business Message Board is a sign that advertises local businesses within a municipality.
Controlled Area
Controlled area shall mean the area within 400 m (one-quarter mile) of any limit of a Provincial Highway. Where a controlled-access highway intersects another highway or road, particularly at intersections where an interchange or other highway facility exists, the 400 m (one-quarter mile) distance shall be measured from a line determined by projecting the normal right-of-way (i.e. fence line or property line) of the controlled-access highway across the intersection, interchange, etc.
The setback distances in this policy are based on a minimum basic setback distance computed on a right-of-way width of 37 m (120 ft.).
Delegated Authority
Delegated Authority shall mean the individual within MTO who has the authority to issue permits under the PTHIA. These include the Field Services Engineers (Eastern Region, Northeastern Region and Northwestern Region), Manager of Corridor Management (Central Region), and Head, Corridor Management Section (West Region), and any alternate or person occupying such position in an acting capacity. The Delegated Authority is responsible for reviewing permit applications, resolving conflicts, issuing permits, and enforcing policies if violations occur.
Development/Real Estate/Construction Signs
A development, real estate, construction sign may consist of a message which identifies any property which is for sale, lease, rent, trade or under development, or may identify the developer, contractor, architect, engineering consultant or include the name of the future occupant or owner of the site or property.
Election Signs
Election signs are placed by, or on behalf of, a candidate or a political party and includes signs designed to encourage citizens to vote.
Frontage Road Does Not Limit Control
The existence of a road, frontage road or street within the controlled area shall not limit the application of this policy except for particular types of signs as specifically set out in this policy.
Height of a Sign
The height of a sign with border or frame shall be the vertical distance from the ground on which it stands to the highest extremity of the sign.
The height of a sign, without border or frame, that is affixed to or mounted upon any building or other approved mounting shall be the vertical distance from the ground to the top of the letter, symbol, or other part of the sign that is the highest point. The height of any roof sign shall be measured from the ground at the wall of the building which wall is nearest to the highway.
Highway Classification
  1. Freeways and Expressways
    1. opposing lanes of traffic are separated by a median
    2. no direct land access is permitted
    3. fully controlled access highways
  2. Staged Freeways and Expressways
    1. 2 or 4 lane staged /freeway/expressway
    2. ultimate design same as Class 1
    3. modified controlled access highways
  3. Special Controlled Access
    1. future multi-lane divided or undivided
    2. similar to Class 2 but volumes do not warrant freeway design
  4. Major
    1. 2 or 4 lanes undivided
  5. Minor
    1. 2 or 4 lanes undivided
For more information regarding MTO's Highway Access Classification system and to find out the classification of the highway that you are located adjacent to, please contact your local Ministry Area Office.
Inflatable Device
An inflatable device may consist of a cold/hot air balloon and balloons inflated with other gases.
Land area under active development
The total land area as noted in this policy is the land area currently under active development which includes the building(s) footprint and permanent parking area(s) (i.e. site plan control).
Landscape Sign
Any arrangement of natural materials and/or conventional signing that displays the name of the business or property owner and is typically located on the ground or a berm.
The area of the sign shall be calculated by the square footage of the message content and/or logo within the display.
Location Signs
A location sign shall be any sign that is located on a property, either freestanding or attached to, or placed or mounted upon a building, or landscaped that either names or identifies the property, occupant(s) or owner(s) or a business conducted on the property, or advertises a product or service(s) available upon the property, or conveys a message placed solely for guidance on the property.
Luminous and Illuminated Signs
  1. Luminous sign:
    1. A sign lit by internal lighting,
    2. A sign whose content can be changed by means of electrically energized display matrix, such as a light-emitting diode (LED).
  2. Illuminated sign:
    1. A sign that is lit by floodlights, indirect lighting, etc.
Message on Two Sides Counts as Two Signs
Where a sign conveys a message, identifies a business or property, or advertises a business, product, real estate or service on more than one side, each side of the sign shall be counted as one sign for the purpose of this policy. Cylindrical and spherical shaped signs shall be counted as two signs when visible from two or more directions. Official signs on the right-of-way of a highway shall only be counted as one sign regardless of whether the message is on one or both sides.
Official Signs
Official signs shall include:
  1. Signs placed by the Ministry, such as:
    1. route markers, assurance signs etc., and,
    2. roadway identification signs, directional signs and other guide signs.
  2. Signs which the Ministry requires a person, firm or organization to place for reasons of safety, information, guidance or for any other reason. Signs required by the Ministry shall include signs and safety devices required during the construction or maintenance of a highway, or during or because of an encroachment upon a highway etc.
  3. Signs approved by the Ministry and placed by another Ministry of the Ontario Government or Federal Government, such as:
    1. signs placed by the Ministry of Natural Resources: fire area, game preserve, park area, forest area, conservation area etc.,
    2. signs placed by the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Recreation: tourist information,
    3. signs placed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food: experimental plot, horticultural station, inspection station etc.,
    4. signs placed by the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade: conservation area etc.
  4. Signs required by Federal Government legislation, e.g. signs required by the Canada Elections Act.
  5. Official signs related to the armed forces.
  6. Signs related to conservation areas which have been approved by the Ministry and have been placed by appropriate municipal officials.
Portable Trailer, Mobile, Movable, or Framed Read-O-Graph Signs (Portable Sign) and Inflatable Devices
A portable sign means a sign or advertising device that is not permanently attached to the ground, a building or a structure, and that is designed to be moved from place to place.
Sign shall include any sign, notice, advertising device, or any part thereof whether it contains words or not and shall include any device that is used solely to attract attention.
Signs Must be of Permanent Construction
Each sign, other than temporary signs or portable signs shall be of permanent construction and shall be fixed in a permanent location. The foundation or base of a sign shall be part of the sign for the purposes of this policy but shall not be included in the measurement when determining the area of a sign.
Signs Visible from Highway and within the Controlled Area are Subject to Approval of the Ministry
Each visible sign placed within the controlled area shall be subject to the approval of the Ministry.
Temporary Signs
A temporary sign shall be a sign or notice of a temporary nature (i.e. charitable functions, special events) which sign must not exceed 3.7 m2 (40 ft2) in size and must not be in place for longer than 4 weeks. Signs exceeding 3.7 m2 (40 ft2) in size should be classified as either location signing or billboard signing according to their location and are subject to the applicable restrictions. Approval or any required permits must be obtained before erection of these signs.
Unit or Establishment
A unit is an individual business having its own name and identity, and which occupies space of more than 200 sq. ft. within a commercial building. The ownership of the unit is not a factor.