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RDOS gets earful over planned crackdown against ‘illegal’ signs on Highway 97
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.)
Special to the Times