Sign of the time

By David F. Rooney

The owner of a commercial sign that has been on City property since at least 2006 has been ordered to remove it.

Council discussed the Jacobson Ford sign ‘issue’ for much of its Tuesday, July 8, meeting before deciding against allowing it to remain up on the City-owned boulevard in front of the dealership on Victoria Road.

This is not a mobile sign. It is an attractive permanent sign and the auto dealership even maintained the boulevard at its own expense.

Councillors Gary Starling and Tony Scarcella argued in favour of allowing Jacobson to retain the sign, but Mayor David Raven was adamant that it had to go.

“What irks me is that someone can come along and build a sign on City property without so much as a by-your-leave,” he said.

Some people may regard this — at first glance — as yet another example of the City’s unwillingness to work with business. But that’s not what the facts suggest.

Here are the facts behind this issue:

2005 — Jacobson Ford issued a permit to build a new dealership at 1321 Victoria Road. The permit drawings included signage for the development but not for a portable sign that later appeared on the site. The development permit allowed the owner, Mike Vandermeer, to install grass and trees in the boulevard. The owner is responsible for the continued maintenance of the landscape works;
2011 — Formal Bylaw Enforcement action on the issue began when Jacobson was notified by letter in the fall that the portable changeable sign was illegal and formally requested the property owner remove the sign. The dealership met with City officials to discuss his options, which included application for a development variance permit, however, his did not apply for one;
2014 — In January the portable sign was again identified by municipal staff as an outstanding issue and was scheduled for further action. However, before that could happen the portable sign was removed from the property. And in May a new permanent changeable sign was constructed on the City Boulevard adjacent to the subject property. This sign sits on a concrete pad. The City was not contacted prior to the work in the boulevard and did not approve the subject works.

Vandermeer was present at the meeting but had little to say. However, he did send Mayor Raven and Council members a letter via e-mail that included copies of Salmon Arm’s signage bylaw and sign permit application form.

“We are asking for your support in order for us to keep the sign,” he said. “As mentioned in our original letter, the City of Salmon Arm recognized that such signs are valuable to local businesses. They introduced a permit system for road signs such as ours. This set rules for businesses that wanted such signs and created a revenue stream for the City. We ask that you consider putting forth such a motion to allow permits for these signs and allow ours to remain in place for the duration.”

Vandermeer’s suggestion that Revelstoke should allow signs like his may well be valid but that value was eroded away by the fact that Jacobson knowingly went ahead and built the sign without approval and then tried to argue that an exception should be made for them.

As different Council members noted during their discussion, signage is important, but Raven’s argument that for “a level of consistency” in bylaw enforcement carried the day.

Council voted 3-2 to compel Jacobson Ford to remove the sign.

You can watch Council’s discussion here: