Bylaw staff say ferry hill signs need to be gone by May 1

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, April 7 2015

The Gabriola Local Trust Committee (LTC) is seeking answers on how to balance businesses’ desire to use roadside signage with current Gabriola Land-Use Bylaw regulations which prohibit such signs except on the property where a business is located.

This is not the first time the issue has come before a Gabriola Local Trust Committee, but it is a fresh issue for the current trustees, as none of them were in their elected position in 2011 when the LTC of the time started a process to deal with signage issues.

The issue came to the current LTC this past Thursday in the form of correspondence from Gloria Hatfield, Vice-president of the Gabriola Chamber of Commerce, and Rachel Davey, Executive Director of The Haven.

The Haven was among the businesses who received a letter from Islands Trust Bylaw Enforcement Officer Warren Dingman.

Dingman said the Trust had received “several written complaints” regarding the proliferation of signs at the ferry hill junction of North Road and Taylor Bay Road.

None of the signs at that location are, according to Dingman, “lawfully posted and all business owners are requested to remove them.”

A compliance date of May 1, 2015, has been set for removal of all signs from the highway right-of-way.

Both Hatfield and Davey sat on a Gabriola Tourism Signage Audit task force struck by the Gabriola Chamber in 2011 which included representatives from the Chamber, the Gabriola Arts Council, Folklife Village, Madrona Marketplace, businesses from both the North and South ends and Gabriola residents-at-large.

At the meeting last week, Trustee Melanie Mamoser pointed out there was a resolution on July 28, 2011,where then Trustee Sheila Malcolmson was to discuss the audit with the Chamber and report back.

“What was the outcome of those meetings?” she asked.

Regional Planning Manager Courtney Simpson (who has replaced staff who were present in 2011) said she did not know an answer to that, “but a quick review doesn’t show any clarity of what the outcomes of those meetings were.”

Trustee Heather Nicholas said in reading the 2011 audit from the Chamber, it seemed like the Chamber was looking for a more creative way to provide signage than the typical Ministry signs, something she approved of.

“At the same time...I wonder if the reason this foundered was there are a lot of regulations in place from the Ministry and Trust bylaws that make this a somewhat challenging initiative.

“One thing mentioned was having a sign maintained by the Chamber that would give direction to various businesses as opposed to individual signs.”

Davey and Hatfield were in the audience and were given a chance to speak.

Davey said she appreciated that for a long-term solution, the LTC would need to put the issue on the staff’s work schedule. 

“In the meantime we have an enforcement bylaw requiring removal by May 1. We will abide.”

She said The Haven provides pickups from the ferry for some of the people coming to the Haven, “but the reality is people bring cars to get to The Haven. 

“They come on the busy afternoon ferries and many people end up at the gas station wondering where The Haven is. 

“It is important people should find us. That’s what prompted my email. I’m curious if anything can be done with the May 1 date.”

Mamoser said she doesn’t personally have a problem with the signs, and that there might be a precedent in holding off on bylaw enforcement while the LTC considers a review of the bylaws.

The trustees requested that bylaw enforcement staff prepare a briefing report to be brought forward to the next Gabriola LTC meeting, which is scheduled for May 7 at the WI Hall.

That report is to include the status of roadside signage and to help establish what options might exist moving forward.

Sonia Lowe, speaking on behalf of the Transportation Ministry, said there is a Service and Attraction Sign program developed by the Ministry “as a relatively uniform method of pointing out conveniences such as services, attractions and other facilities to the travelling public.”

She cautioned, however, that the Ministry signs are not intended to promote any one service, attraction or facility over another. 

“Common services and attractions are: gas stations, restaurants, motels, campgrounds, airports, tourist attractions and artisans.”

To apply for consideration under the program, any accommodation, attraction or artisan businesses can contact the Ministry’s Nanaimo office at (250) 751-3246. 

Lowe said if the Ministry approves the application for a Service and Attraction sign, it will be ordered and installed at no cost to the applicant. 

More signage information is available on the Ministry’s website at www.th.gov.bc.ca