Fight brewing over sign removal edict

The Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen has issued letters regarding sign removal to some property owners in the South Okanagan.

It is part of an effort to remove what they say is excessive signage lining Highway 97 from Oliver down to Osoyoos.

"There are hundreds of signs out there, right on the highway right of way, and the board has acknowledged it has gotten out of hand," said Donna Butler, Development Services Manager for the RDOS.

Butler said the board has been discussing this issue since complaints started about billboards around Osoyoos a few years ago.

Directors subsequently have worked with the Ministry of Transportation to reach the point they are at now.

The effort is broken up into two phases to make it more manageable. The first is from just south of the  Oliver town boundary to Road 21, and the  next will be from there to the border on Highway 97.

As part of the first phase, letters have gone out to private sign owners identifying them this action is taking place and they should contact the RDOS.

It reads in part: "This letter is to inform you of a joint initiative by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen to improve the safety and aesthetics along Highway 97.

The proliferation of unauthorized private signs along Highway 97 in the South Okanagan  has created a safety concern related to driver distraction due to information overload, reducing a driver's ability to concentrate on the driving task.

Private property owners with unauthorized signs will be given the opportunity to come into compliance with RDOS sign regulations. The RDOS will take necessary enforcement action to address noncompliance.

"They have been put on notice they should remove the signs in the first letter," said Butler. "A second letter will go out in early February to tell them they have until the end of February to remove signs."

Butler said most people recognize what they are trying to do, but there have been a few angry responses.

Lloyd Park, who runs Lloyd & Veral Park - The Home of Every Blooming Thing, a nursery south of Oliver, said he rents sign space on his property for 10 or 11 wineries.

He said some are upset about having to take their signs down.

"They don't want them taken down, because that is their best advertising," he said.

Furthermore, Park claims when the signs aren't up, he has to spend time directing traffic to where the wineries are.

Anna Manola, proprietor of Silver Sage Winery, which has a sign on Park's property, said her opinion is if the signs on the property are causing accidents, then they should be removed, but the signs for the wineries are tastefully set.

"If they want me to take it down, I will," she said. "But I want the regional district to take a look at the fruit signs that don't even reflect seasonal business."

John Hofman, owner of Integra Tire and Auto Centre in Oliver, said he also received a letter and is not happy about it.

"I found property to put my sign on eight years ago," he said. "They said it was fine at the time and now they come back to us with this. It drives me nuts as soon as you do something they crack down on you. And how are people supposed to find nice wineries and businesses if they take away the signs.

It looks as if they will have a fight on their hands, because no one I've talked to is happy about this."

Butler said it is important to know that there is official signage permitted. People with questions on this matter are advised to contact the RDOS.



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