Concerns growing over sign removal

Concerned business and land owners in the South Okanagan have held two meetings in recent weeks to discuss the issue of sign removal.

The meetings came about after the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen issued letters regarding the proliferation of signs and safety issues related to that along Highway 97.

"There are a high percentage of people that have seasonal businesses on the side of the highway that are really upset about this," said Greg Thorp, the owner of Riverside Garden Centre in Oliver.  "And it will be a particular hardship to those with businesses away from the highway."

The RDOS has discussed the issue since complaints started about billboards around Osoyoos a few years ago.

They are now working with the Ministry of Transportation on the sign removal effort, which was 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.

The first letter advised owners the action is taking place and they should contract the RDOS. A second letter is slated to go out in the near future.

Thorp said attendees at the meetings included a cross section of people from the community worried about the impact this will have on them.

So far a list of positive recommendations and concerns have come out of those meetings and three people, including Thorp, have been designated to meet with the RDOS and the Ministry of Transportation and Ministry of Agriculture.

Thorp said one of their biggest worries is losing the ability to advertise businesses.

"This is not just about the fact this annoys somebody, it's people's livelihoods, jobs that are at stake here," he said. "The other thing is they are citing a safety issue, but we don't feel safety is a valid argument, because we can point to signs in other areas not creating problems, although we don't have statistics."

Thorp said he hopes to talk with the RDOS and ministries in the near future.

The hope being that businesses be allowed to have seasonal and third party signs out.

"We are cautiously optimistic but not holding our breath," he said. "The tone is we think the South Okanagan is a special place, and we want to keep it special but still survive."

Donna Butler, development services manager for the RDOS, has said previously it is important for owners to know there is official signage permitted. People with questions on the matter have also been advised to call the RDOS.

After the recent meetings, she said she would like to hear from the attendees and see what can be set up.

"When people have concerns, it's reasonable to meet with them and look for opportunities to accommodate those concerns," she said. "We will be looking at what is a reasonable amount of signage from a business point of view, keeping in mind the aesthetics of the area."







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