Okanagan politician irate over 'half-assed' sign cleanup
B.C.’s Transportation Ministry has drawn the ire of a local politician who accused it of backing out of an agreement to stage a massive cleanup of roadside signs in the South Okanagan.
Approximately 250 signs between Oliver and the Canada-U.S. border were expected to be torn down this spring through a partnership with the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, but the plan has now been idled.
“Give the time of year where we’re at right now, we feel that it could be challenging for us to carry out the strong enforcement that’s planned,” Murray Tekano, the ministry’s district manager, told the RDOS board on Thursday.
“We feel that it’s more important to allow the business community in that area there to carry out their activities as they may have already conceived and planned.”
Tekano noted the project isn’t dead, just scaled back for now
“I don’t see us undertaking at this time, any earlier than the fall, any sort of large-scale, broad-brush sign enforcement, other than for safety reasons,” he said.
Allan Patton, the RDOS director for rural Oliver, tore into Tekano for making the decision without consulting the local government or considering the “plethora” of public support for the effort.
“Now for you to propose some sort of half-assed program to try to get in there, this is ridiculous,” said Patton, who claimed the transportation minister personally assured his support for the cleanup.
“Every association and group and committee wants this to be dealt with, the public is right behind this completely. It’s about time you get on board and find out what’s going on.”
Patton said the change of plan will also undermine what the RDOS has told sign owners since the first warning letters went out in January.
“I don’t like being made a fool of, and I don’t like this board being made a fool of, and I think that’s what happened,” he said.
The cleanup was engineered to remove signs that some feel are a blight on the landscape or pose a safety hazard to the travelling public, although some business owners complained it would ruin them by removing their ability to advertise.
About 80 per cent of the signs are on highway right-of-ways, while most of the rest are on private land covered by RDOS bylaws, which the board voted earlier this month to review in response to concerns that have come forward.
Tekano said the delay in tearing down signs will help the ministry in “harmonizing” with any bylaw amendments.
RDOS development services manager Donna Butler said 150 letters to sign owners warning them that offending signs would be torn down in mid-May were ready to be mailed this week, but won’t be sent now until the RDOS has discussed the latest developments with the transportation minister.