Town's Sign Laws Confound RV Park Owners

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June 10, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

A Wetaskiwin County, Alberta, business owner that attended an open house for the city of Wetaskiwin came away with a few more answers and a lot less frustration.

Susan Durk and her husband Len, who own Prairie Breeze RV & Campground, along side the west portion of Highway 13, immediately west of the city limits, attended the city's sign bylaw open house at the Wetaskiwin & District Chamber of Commerce office on May 30, the Wetaskiwin Times Advertiser reported.

Armed with documentation, Susan Durk spoke at length with city Alderman Glenn Ruecker over a problem she sees with the present bylaw.

"We cannot have signs on Highway 2A coming in, we cannot have signs on 2A coming in from the south end, we can't have signs on Highway 13 east coming in," she pointed out. "We can't have signs on 40 Avenue and down because that's a highway too as you get out of town. We're frozen out of everything, and under your new sign bylaw, it's still going to freeze us out."

Unfair disadvantage: owner

Durk explained to Ruecker that she believes her business, located in Wetaskiwin County, is at an unfair disadvantage when it comes to signs promoting her business compared to the Lions Campground in Wetaskiwin, located along side the east portion of Highway 13, which is located inside city limits.

She showed Ruecker a city map, where she had outlined the location of eight signs, which she said name the Lions Campground.

"A lot of them are little signs on the sign posts, and the city's sign posts.

"Under the land use bylaw, this is unacceptable. This is in contravention of the existing bylaw, the land use bylaw," she told Ruecker.

"Apparently, you guys decided to form a committee to review that, which is a good thing. I commend you on that. However, I (have) some concerns about your proposals. You say that you are willing to have off-site signage, which I think is most appropriate, because if you are not located on the highway, or down Main Street (50 Avenue), you're at a real disadvantage.

"The people on the highway have exceptional control because the virtue of their location, and the way the sign bylaw exists right now," Durk told Ruecker.

"You saying that you would be prepared to allow off-site signage, however, it has to be in a fixed, permanent-type setting, subject to setbacks, and so forth.

"It can't be on right-of-way, therefore, it has to be on private property, and that makes it subject to permission of the private property owners.

"Now, I don't want to sound like a whiner, but you look at it the other way," she told Ruecker.

"The Automile is still the best place for people to drive through and choose a place to eat or a place to stay, or they may go east to the (Lions) campground," she continued.

Durk expressed a concern that businesses, which need permission from private landowners to post a sign, "could still be frozen out of any opportunity to (post a) sign" along areas such as the Automile.

Ruecker asked Durk what would be the solution to her problem.

"If you want development extending out of Wetaskiwin, (businesses are) all facing the same problem," she replied.

Ruecker, however, pointed out that the city has little control over the problem.

"But we're extending into the county, and that's beyond on our jurisdiction, we can't do anything in the county," pointed out Ruecker.

No so, said Durk, referring to something she called the inter-municipal zone.

"They follow everything with their (the county's) sign bylaw, it didn't match their land use (bylaw) to give us a sign.

"But as far as off site, and everything else, they said we follow the city's land use bylaw for sign regulations because we're in the inter-municipal zone."

Ruecker explained that once any changes come before council following the open house, and if they get passed, then "perhaps the county will look at redoing theirs and give you a chance to put some off site advertising in.

"Right now, we can't go the county and say, 'You must.'

Durk agreed, and pointed out that signage falls under provincial jurisdiction, and not the Wetaskiwin County.

Ruecker said the open house is designed to allow people to provide the city with input and some direction concerning the bylaw.

"(We're) looking for input into it to gives some direction to say, 'Look at this,' and let's give us something that we can go on."

Alderman against original bylaw

Ruecker also made it clear that when the land use bylaw was first introduced, completely banning use of all off-site advertising, he was against such a move.

"At that point, my comment was I, as an elected official, can't go back to a business and say, 'I'm going to limit your advertising, and I'm going to take that ability away from you.'

"I was one member of an entire committee, and I got voted down. When it came up for a chance to review this part, I was one of the first ones to say I want on (the committee).

"I want input into this because I didn't agree with the banning of off site advertising.

"Now, one of the things that came up was they wanted to limit the number of portable signs.

"And the easiest way to limit the number of portable signs was to say no off site advertising, because that effectively eliminated all of that.

"Virtually, the only reason that there was portable signage was for off-site advertising.

"If you eliminate off site advertising, you eliminate the portable signs automatically," said Ruecker who agreed with Durk that it would create a whole new set of problems.

"If I seem frustrated, it's not you personally, Glenn," Durk told Ruecker.

"It's every time we turn around, our specific location of where we are, and where we build, was intended to compliment Wetaskiwin, and the Reynolds-Alberta Museum.

"And every time we turned around, we are frozen out of everything," she said and quickly added she would give some thought on providing input regarding the city's sign bylaw.

Ruecker said the committee is only a small group of people, and that's why the city went ahead with the open house.

"Give us some suggestions. Give us an opportunity for you to put this down on paper, and say: 'what about this? Can you look at this, and then we can go back as a group, and say, this is the response we got," said Ruecker.

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