Sign bylaw debated again

Controversial initiative next due before Council June 24.

A crowd of at least 25 business owners and residents concerned about the city’s draft sign bylaw came to a special meeting Wednesday afternoon at City Hall to find out more about changes and the direction of the bylaw.

The sign bylaw most likely won’t come back to council until the June 24 meeting as staff would not have the updated draft ready before then.

One reason for that was that council instructed staff to look into various new options, such as the possibility of licencing movable signs.

CAO Wayne Staudt explained that staff could also bring it back as a draft for more consultation if council wishes as the purpose of the meeting was to was seek direction from council.

Staff spent some time talking about the need for engineering standards on new signs being built. The city’s building inspector is not comfortable doing the inspections and so an engineer would have to be brought in to inspect the larger signs as they are designed and built.

This brought up some concerns about potential costs, but staff said the signs would be looked at on a case-by-case basis.

Off-premise signs were also a hot topic as there is the potential for clutter to happen on the main thoroughfares, but Coun. Diana Scott said businesses need to be able to advertise their locations.

Coun. Gerry Warner agreed, saying that if businesses want to share space with other businesses it should be their own decision.

Billboards also provided for a lot of discussion.

Mayor Wayne Stetski said banning billboards outright would help Cranbrook improve aesthetics. Sparwood and Fernie don’t allow billboards and billboards leading into Fernie not allowed. Coun. Sharon Cross said she wanted to see billboards abolished as they interfere with the landscape.

Coun. Bob Whetham was also against, as many billboards advertise things outside of the community anyway.

Mayor Stetski estimated there are about a half dozen billboards around Cranbrook.

“Many of them are in a total state of disrepair,” Stetski said.

Scott said there is a place and need for billboards and they haven’t obstructed the view in her experience. She said they haven’t been maintained because they would likely have to be taken down to fix and maybe not allowed back up.

Coun. Cross said many comments from the community were against large signs.

“Part of the purpose of the sign bylaw is to improve the attractiveness of the community,” Cross said.

Mayor Stetski said it’s not a numbers game so much as it is about building a better Cranbrook.

Coun. Warner argued that if billboards are attractive and on a vacant lot he didn’t see why they shouldn’t be allowed.

Coun. Angus Davis said some comments insulted the business community and listening to those people could put the city in “for a real rough ride.”

Warner suggested a billboard committee that could decide and rule on billboard placement and allowances.

Scott said that industrial area is another place that could have billboards.

Whetham noted that billboards are not currently allowed under the current city bylaw.

Council voted against banning billboards outright and so staff will prepare some guidelines on those as well.