“Constant assault to the eye”: Signage sparks public debate

A public hearing was held for Bylaw 2060-15 being a land use bylaw to designate the strip of land between the Smitty’s Restaurant and No Frills to a Public Use District.

The proposed designation of this land was a result of Stettler town council’s conversation with the intention to identify this land as a linear park at their July 3 meeting.

Due to the nature of the area with mature trees, meandering pathways, residential areas on both sides of the boulevard, an adjacent playground, as well as a large portion being within the school zone, a Public Use zoning was considered conducive to this area.

Administration noted that this redesignation will provide for a similar park-like feel as the pathway along 44 Avenue, south of the RCMP, Stettler Recreation Centre and Museum.

A father walks his daughter along Hwy 12 at a crosswalk on Wed. Sept. 5. Signage in the area between Smitty’s Restaurant and No Frills has caused both significant backlash and support for the removal of public announcement signs after public safety concerns were raised. (Terri Huxley/ECA Review)

The only problem many opposed to the redesignation noticed was the regulation of signage in this area: “No portable signs shall be located in the environmental open space or public use districts.”

Since the announcement for a public hearing began, 19 written, supportive submissions were collected as well as six in disagreement.

Safety hazard, ugly and distracting were the words that became a familiar theme amongst the people in support of changing the zoning to exclude the use of magnet signs.

“If sending an email in all caps is considered yelling, then large black signs with bold capital letters in neon colours is screaming. I personally find them offensive,” said Betty Stokoe, a supporter of the revision to the bylaw, in her submission to council.

Darrin Bosomworth wrote “I understand marketing is an important facet for any business and certainly visibility is crucial which is why this space has so many signs now, but it’s a school zone for the majority of the space. People should be paying attention to the road and not those signs.

“Or more simply, these signs should be restricted to the commercial areas in the community which is pretty much accurate to where the signs are now, with the exception of the area in question.”

“To be frank, they are ugly and detract from the clean natural environment that is characteristic of a small town,” said resident Gayle Thoun in her submission. “I recently resided in Edmonton where the signage is pollution to the eyes. I was looking forward to returning to Stettler to enjoy the natural and calming environment of this town. I was saddened to see numerous multicoloured signs on the subject land – one right after the other – a constant assault to the eye.”

A repercussion of this proposed revision would affect non-profit organizations as they have small budgets for advertisements of events and the encouragement of inter-business relations may be squandered. Many have also voiced support via social media or through a petition.

“We feel that there is nothing wrong with the signs along this stretch of highway as they are a public information sign informing the public of upcoming events, training sessions, sales at business locations in the town and public knowledge notices which would not be known about if they were not allowed to be displayed there for everyone to see,” said Wayne and Darlene Todd in their letter of disapproval.

“Not everyone reads the paper or is a part of social media as you think… If they also weren’t there, just think, we wouldn’t know when the car show, drag races, rodeo, employment notices, fly in breakfast were going to be held.”

Laurie and Darryl Rachar make a presentation to Stettler council on why the magnet signs are an integral part of the community during the public hearing for land use bylaw 2060-15 to give the area a designation under Public Use. The couple have been owners of the signs for roughly 15 years. (Terri Huxley/ECA Review)

Laurie and Darryl Rachar, owners of the magnet signs and Stettler Sales and Rentals wrote, they have been in the business for approximately 15 years and were seen as reasonable people to work with to find common ground.

The couple has been told several times by customers that the signs have significantly boosted their attendance and success of their event.

Many signs being used for free by local non-profit organizations and charities upon request.

“Your proposed bylaw will most greatly affect the non-profit and charity organizations within our community,” said Laurie.

“We ask that you use wisdom when considering this bylaw change. It may suppress your own favourite charities and non-profit organizations.”

The business owners have even gone as far as making sure the signs are 50 metres apart if not farther even though the bylaw is currently regulated at 35 metres.

“We need you to realize that density may increase on the regulation spacing in other areas of town if you close this area,” continued Laurie.

As for school zones, Laurie was adamant that the signs would move if an accident were to occur.

“The school zone; I understand that it is a safety issue,” Laurie said. “To my knowledge, there hasn’t been an issue. I would be the first person to take out the signs if I had known about that. I would have loved it if somebody would have phoned me and said there was an issue. I would yank them out right away.”

Council did not make any decisions later on in the regular council meeting as many councillors wished to have more time to mull over the options and absorb what was said at the public hearing.

Approximately 30 people were in attendance to raise their concerns or support.

 

Terri Huxley

ECA Review

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