Over the objections of its leader, the regional district on Thursday reaffirmed its support for a cleanup of roadside signs in the South Okanagan.
Approximately 300 signs along Highway 97 from the southern edge of Oliver to the Canada-U.S. border are in the cross-hairs of the joint project of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen and the B.C. Transportation Ministry.
Beginning in January, owners were issued letters asking them to remove the signs and warning that failure to do so could result in signs being removed.
About 80 per cent of the offending signs are on highway right-of-ways, but the ministry changed course in April and announced it wouldn’t proceed with a mass cleanup until the fall so as not to unduly affect business owners in the lead-up to tourist season.
Meanwhile, the RDOS, which can’t tear down signs on private property without a court order that could take years to obtain, will continue with the letter campaign aimed at voluntary compliance.
Allan Patton, the director for rural Oliver, asked colleagues at a committee meeting Thursday to recommit to the project in light of the ministry’s decision to delay its work.
“I think it’s important to decide whether we move ahead or not,” Patton said, despite the board also considering sign-related bylaw amendments based on feedback it received in recent months.
Mark Pendergraft, the director for rural Osoyoos, suggested the enforcement effort be put off until the uncertainty around possible bylaw amendments is cleared up.
“Right now, we’re sending out blanket letters, if we proceed, to every person with a sign, and it may be a legitimate sign, or it may not be. You’re just making people angry for no reason,” said Pendergraft, also the RDOS board chairman.
“That is the definition of looking ridiculous.”
Other committee members spoke in favour of continuing on.
“Just because the province blinked doesn’t mean we should blink too,” said Tom Siddon, the director for Okanagan Falls-Kaleden
The committee voted 13-1 in favour of proceeding with the project and bylaw amendment process. Pendergraft was the lone vote in opposition.
RDOS staff has recommended bylaw amendments that would allow agricultural property owners to post more signs, but not third-party signs some have asked for. Staff also suggested public meetings be held in June in Penticton and Oliver.