Sign enforcement still a go

The Regional District Okanagan Similkameen plans to proceed with sign removal enforcement in the South Okanagan.

Board members, with the sole exception of Chair Mark Pendergraft, voted in favour of continuing at their recent meeting.

"The system is already working. It is voluntary compliance and you can see the difference," said director Stu Wells. "I think it's important we proceed without taking our foot off the gas pedal."

The signs in question are along Highway 97 from south of Oliver down to the border. Their removal was a joint project of the RDOS and Ministry of Transportation, but in April the ministry announced that enforcement of highway signage was postponed until the fall of 2014, but that safety issues would be addressed on a case by case basis.

The issue was again discussed at length at the last meeting, after rural Oliver director Allan Patton asked the board whether or not they wanted to continue with the enforcement, due to the change proposed by the ministry. The question was asked, as the board considered signage bylaw amendments.

It was Pendergraff's preference to do the enforcement with the ministry.

"It makes more sense to have the amendments up front, then the letter," he said. "You are just making people angry for no reason, and I would wait until the fall."

Letters have already been sent out on the matter. In January, there was a letter from the ministry and the   RDOS concerning signs on right of ways and private property.

Now the next step is to send out letters to those people who have signage issues on their property, not on the highway right of way, said Donna Butler, RDOS development services manager.

Those should go out by the end of May.

Meanwhile, staff will be bringing forward the bylaw amendments and also planning for two public meetings, one in the Penticton area, the other in the Oliver area in the near future.

"I am hearing from the board that they are always very concerned about this clutter," said Butler."They feel we've spent a lot of energy and should continue."

The reaction from people to the sign removal in the South Okanagan has been mixed.

Several business owners have complained it will have a negative impact on their workplaces. But RDOS staff has also received letters of support, said Butler.

"I do think the public supports this," she said. "And we have no problem with businesses having signage. There are just too many."

According to this statement released by the ministry:  "Following the public open house earlier this spring, the RDOS planned to revise its bylaw to address concerns raised by attendees, and similarly the mnistry has chosen to revisit its approach based on this public feedback.

We are encouraging voluntary compliance by sign owners as we head into summer, while working with sign owners to identify ministry roadside signage programs, such as the Wine Route signs, which may work for their businesses.

This approach would be less impactful to local business owners as they move into their busy season, and allow them time to make the necessary changes. While this may be a change in the implementation strategy, the ministry feels it will still achieve the desired results."


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