RDOS gets earful over planned crackdown against ‘illegal’ signs on Highway 97

By on March 11, 2014
About 150 people turned out at the Oliver Community Centre Tuesday, many to express concerns about a crackdown by the RDOS against "illegal" signs that proliferate along Highway 97 between Oliver and Osoyoos. Some business people say they need the signs to survive. Regulations only allow one sign per land parcel and they cannot exceed three metres in height. Nor are third-party signs allowed -- signs that advertise someone else's business. (Lyonel Doherty photo)

About 150 people turned out at the Oliver Community Centre Tuesday, many to express concerns about a crackdown by the RDOS against “illegal” signs that proliferate along Highway 97 between Oliver and Osoyoos. Some business people say they need the signs to survive. Regulations only allow one sign per land parcel and they cannot exceed three metres in height. Nor are third-party signs allowed — signs that advertise someone else’s business. (Lyonel Doherty photo)

They got an earful, but that’s exactly what regional district officials wanted at Tuesday’s public meeting to discuss local sign regulations.

After hearing numerous concerns about the current bylaw, Area C director Allan Patton indicated that he and rural Osoyoos director Mark Pendergraft will recommend that a public hearing be held.

Tuesday’s three-hour forum attracted about 150 people to the Oliver Community Centre where some heated debate occurred.

Many fruit growers and business owners stood up to oppose the regional district’s plan to crack down on “illegal” signs on private property along Highway 97 between Oliver and Osoyoos.

The regional district is working with the Ministry of Transportation to lessen the number of signs in order to improve aesthetics and enhance traffic safety. The ministry states that too many signs along Highway 97 cause driver distraction.

According to Jeff Wiseman, the ministry’s operations manager for the region, the Oliver/Osoyoos area has the highest proliferation of signs in BC.

The sign regulations state that only one sign per parcel is permitted, and signs cannot exceed a height of three metres.

The regulations strictly prohibit third-party signs on private property (signs that advertise someone else’s business).

The regional district has sent out letters to individuals asking that they remove their signs that contravene the bylaw.

The third-party rule is creating a lot of opposition from business owners who argue that they need these signs to survive.

Greg Thorp from Riverside Garden Centre in Oliver said he relies on highway signage to stay in business. Thorp told Patton that if he is forced to remove his signs, layoffs would be imminent.

Paul Gill, owner of Paul’s Greenhouses in Osoyoos, agreed. He said the regulations are hurting his business if he can’t advertise on the highway. Gill pointed out that he won’t remove his sign until the regional district settles the issue at the board level.

Osoyoos business owner Clint Hawes was shocked to learn that the sign crackdown was reportedy caused by fewer than 25 complaints from the public. Hawes argued that he has a right to know who has been complaining about the proliferation of signs. But he was told that this information is confidential.

Wiseman and regional district officials informed the audience that they will not take any enforcement action until the regional board makes a decision.

Patton said it is possible the board will amend the regulations and/or create a new bylaw.

Pendergraft said it appears that changes are needed. He noted that enforcement letters have just gone out to Area A residents.

“I’m sure my phone will start ringing,” he said.

(The full story on Tuesday’s meeting will be published in next week’s Osoyoos Times.)

LYONEL DOHERTY

Special to the Times

Paul Gill from Paul's Greenhouses in Osoyoos talks to Jeff Wiseman (right) from the Ministry of Transportation. Gill is one of many  business owners raising concerns about the regional district's crackdown on signage along Highway 97. (Lyonel Doherty photo)

Paul Gill from Paul’s Greenhouses in Osoyoos talks to Jeff Wiseman (right) from the Ministry of Transportation. Gill is one of many business owners raising concerns about the regional district’s crackdown on signage along Highway 97. (Lyonel Doherty photo)

2 Comments

  1. David

    March 13, 2014 at 10:03 am

    I can see both sides. Its not pretty seeing all of the signs as you drive along 97. Long ago it was much nicer. Maybe if the signs were more professional? Some of the signs on the highway look like they were made by blind children, not a good look for sure.

    Why not try something like plaza signs? put up a nice board every road or two and let the business’s in the area have a slot? Maybe if the local business’s get together they could do it and bypass all this?

    Really though, even if you need your sign to keep your business going you must be able to see that it is a bit out of hand. I truly believe if the signs were nicer, it wouldn’t be such an issue.

  2. Les Dewar

    March 13, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    I agree with the previous post. Also, I don’t see why a fruit/vegetable stand needs signs every 6 feet saying, “apples”, “peaches”, “cherries”, “tomatoes”, “cucumbers”, “blueberries”, “peppers”, etc. How ridiculous!! One sign stating that there is a fruit stand ahead is all that is needed. If they need to list various things, then do it all on one sign with the name of their fruit stand.
    The long string of small signs was distracting, cluttered looking and downright silly.

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