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PROPOSED BYLAW COULD THREATEN PLANS TO INSTALL ELECTRONIC SIGN AT SCHOOL
OSOYOOS TIMES-June 2, 2010
By Laurena Weninger – Osoyoos Times
A year-long project by the Osoyoos Elementary School’s Parent Advisory Council (PAC) has been put on hold due to a new sign bylaw in the works by the Town of Osoyoos.
“We want to purchase one of those electronic message boards,” explained PAC president Sandy Summers. “(But) at our last PAC meeting it was brought to our attention the Town was creating a bylaw that may prevent us having that sign.”
Such signs are a common sight at schools and various institutions, explained Vernon’s Keith Dixon, from Pattison Sign Group.
Osoyoos Elementary School has been working toward the purchase of this sign for a year now, Summers said.
The sign would be approximately 2.5 metres wide by 1.5 metres high.
The top portion – just over half-a-metre in length – would be an illuminated header with the school’s logo.
The bottom portion would be an electronically-controlled LED screen allowing for three lines of copy.
It would be mounted on a large, blank wall on the north side of the school, near the parking lot where parents drop off and pick up children.
Messages on the sign would include reminders of various events, changes in pickup time and other occasional reminders for parents and the community.
Dixon said the signs can be adjusted in brightness levels and while they can be used for flashing or scrolling messages, they can also be set to a static display.
The total cost of the sign is $15,000 and the PAC has the money in the bank and is ready to go ahead with its installation.
But now that the group is ready to purchase the sign, they are being told they should think twice.
The Town’s current sign bylaw would allow the new sign, Summers said.
But a representative from the Town’s planning department doesn’t want the school to purchase the sign at this time, regardless of the current rules.
“He really strongly urged us not to go ahead,” Summers said.
Her understanding is that the PAC should not proceed because the new sign bylaw – which has been drafted but not yet released to the public – could require all such signs to be removed, even if they were installed under the current bylaw and have been in existence for years.
Alain Cunningham, Osoyoos’s director of planning and development services, said on May 31 that he could not yet comment on the matter because more research is being done, but that the Town is trying to get some answers to the school regarding the matter.
Summers is disappointed with the delay and lack of information, because the PAC has worked hard toward its goal of putting the sign up before the end of this school year.
She added that the PAC can’t seem to find out information it needs about a possible timeline of when the new bylaw will be released, or what it will entail.
Money for the sign project was raised through several projects, including movie nights and various raffles.
Some of the money came from grants from the B.C. Gaming Commission, which must be spent within 18 months of being received.
“Some may expire by September,” said Summers, adding if it came down to the deadline the PAC could spend the money earmarked for the sign on other things.
Summers said her understanding of the Town’s consideration of banning such signs is for safety purposes, as well as to keep flashing signs from annoying any nearby residents or businesses.
Dixon said while other municipalities may have sign bylaws, there are very few that don’t include exemptions for the electronic message signs for institutions such as schools.
Cunningham brought a draft of the bylaw to council last December.
Primarily, the bylaw will distinguish three types of signs – signs that are allowed without a permit, allowable signs with a permit and prohibited signs which include undesirable signs that are unsightly or cause visual clutter or safety distractions.
Examples of signs on the “prohibited” list include animated signs.
The bylaw has not received any readings yet.