The regional district Planning and Development Committee discussed the excessive signage issue plaguing the South Okanagan and Similkameen at the October 18 RDOS Director’s meeting.
Staff made a hurried presentation outling the results of research performed earlier this year, which included an inventory of signs lining Highway 97 and Eastside Road.
Chief Administrative Officer Bill Newell told the board that signage regulations were not being enforced by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. He noted also that enforcement must prioritize and take a long term approach to the issue of eliminating excessive roadside signage.
Of particular concern is “third party signage,” that is, signage not related to the property the signs are located upon.
Area “C” Director Allan Patton offered to take the issue to the Advisory Planning Committee for discussion, while Electoral Area “A” Director Mark Pendergraft noted that the issue was a sensitive one amongst the electorate, with pro and no sign proponents pretty much split down the middle.
“Just a heads up,” RDOS Chair Dan Ashton told the committee, “ Our MLA’s said they would take this on – but it would be all or nothing.”
It was noted that efforts to clean up excessive signage in the past had only been fleetingly successful.
“As soon as they’re down, they’re up again,” Patton commented.
Referring to the problem as an “arms race” – with respect to the one – upmanship aspect of excess signage – if one fruit stand puts up a sign, the next fruit stand has to respond with two – Area “F” Director Michael Brydon said, “We need to get some courage on this – it’s just ridiculous.”
Osoyoos Director Stu Wells agreed, saying, “It’s a disgrace. We got the town cleaned up, but then you hit the regional district boundary – these things breed at night. It’s ridiculous, God – awful to look at, and ‘way beyond what is acceptable. If we need a referendum – I’d like to see the law acted upon.”
The motion before the committee involved establishing RDOS signage priorities and requesting in writing to the minister and local MLAs, that the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure enforce highway right of way encroachments, establishing the costs of priority actions to be included in the 2013 budget.
In the Similkameen, a lack of bylaws means there is little politicians can do to control signage issues. Area “G” apparently has no sign bylaws, so local government cannot respond to complaints. The Village of Keremeos does have a bylaw, but can only act and enforce issues occurring within the village limits.
A sign bylaw was the only initiative residents of Area “B” voted in favour of during a questionaire regarding the development of an Official Community Plan that was put forward three years ago by then director George Hanson.
“Since the awareness of excessive signage in Area “B” there has been a lot less signage along the highways. Even though it is better I’m still getting complaints regarding size and positioning of signs,” Area “B” Director George Bush told the Review recently.