Squamish Council has found itself in an unusual position where staff may be authorized to go onto private land and remove seven signs that don't conform to municipal bylaws before the 2010 Olympics.
A few of the signs may be legitimized after council revisits its municipal sign bylaw at a Jan. 26 meeting of the Community Planning Development Committee, but at the regular council meeting on Jan. 19 council voted unanimously to give staff authorization to remove the signs.
There are currently seven signs posted by five companies in real estate and development that don't conform to the bylaw. Letters have already been sent to Coastal Village Living (Skye), Sea to Sky Premiere Properties (Raven's Plateau), The Townlie Group of Companies (Thunderbird Creek), Westmana (Mireau and Bracken Arms Estates) and Alplenlofts with direction to remove the signs by Aug. 20, 2009. To date none of the signs have been removed, although municipal staff have removed several signs on District of Squamish property.
"A number of signs were removed, those placed illegally on district property. But a number still exist because they are on private property with or without the permission of the property owner," explained Mick Gottardi, the director of community development.
Under the current bylaw Squamish has the right to remove signs on private property that don't conform to municipal bylaws, providing all efforts have been made to achieve compliance. For example, real estate signs on private property are only allowed to give directions to the development and some information about the development itself. As well, signs are limited to six square metres. Many of the existing signs are larger.
Gottardi says the companies have expressed issues with the sign bylaw, which will be discussed on Jan. 26. However, most of the current signs will have to come down.
Councillor Bryan Raiser asked who would pay to remove the signs. Gottardi answered that the cost would be borne by the district initially, but they would bill the owner of the sign for the cost.
Raiser asked if a mechanism to recover those costs could be built into any changes to the bylaw that result from the Jan. 26 meeting. Gottardi said staff would investigate to see whether that was possible under the Local Government Act.
Council debates loan guarantee
In the end council voted unanimously to provide a $500,000 loan guarantee to the West Coast Railway Association, but not before a debate over whether they should request collateral in exchange for the guarantee - something that the District of Squamish has done in the past for the WCRA, which pledged some of its valuable rolling stock as collateral.