RDEK grapples with rural highway signage

Board directs bylaw enforcement to look the other way on signs as it develops regional sign bylaw

Highway signage was revisited at a regional district meeting, as the board rescinded a development variance permit for a pair of signs out by Wycliffe and Meadowbrook for a Kimberley-based business.

However, the board also agreed to look the other way on signage bylaw contraventions as staff looks to create an overall highway signage policy for most of the RDEK jurisdiction.

The variance was rescinded, but it’s never simple,” said RDEK board chair Rob Gay. “So we’re saying those signs are illegal because they don’t conform to the laws right now, but we’ve instructed our staff to not enforce that.”

Area A, the rural areas in the Elk Valley outside of municipal governments, already has a bylaw as part of its Official Community Plan that governs the rules around highway signage, however, the rest of the RDEK does not.

However, one of the major bones of contention for highway signage is allowing third-party advertising on rural properties, according to Gay.

“We allow private property owners a sign if they’re advertising their business on site,” said Gay. “But it’s the business for the third-party or the second party, however you want to look at it — I’m advertising on my property a business in Golden, for example — that’s not approved in our bylaws.”

The issue came up at last month’s RDEK board meeting and there was a stark divide in support for highway signage from municipal directors who wished to support local businesses, while area directors say their constituents did not want signage on their rural properties.

Jane Walter, the director for Area E, says the board’s decision of non-enforcement is an acceptable compromise while it grapples with the larger issue of developing a regional sign bylaw.

“I think that’s the only way that we were going to succeed with today’s board,” Walter said. “I believe that most of the regional directors want to see basically no signs. I think most of us are okay with people advertising their own businesses within their own yard, but we also have rules about how big the signs are.”

The Meadowbrook Community Association (MCA) wrote a letter asking the board to reconsider a decision from last month’s board meeting, where the board approved two highway signs for Spirit Rock Climbing Centre.

The letter slammed the support the application received from municipal directors and noted the original vote to approve the variance permit ran afoul of staff recommendations.

“If it stands, in future the RDEK will have difficulty justifying enforcing any complaint about a non-conforming sign, refusing any other requests for variances, or denying new applications for billboards,” reads the letter. “This decision also disrespects the input received during the consultation process and makes the expenditure on the recent OCP Review seem like a waste of taxpayer dollars.”

Gay says there will be opportunities for public consultations regarding any potential signage bylaw once staff begin tackling the issue.

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