City planning staff example of business signage clutter in Kelowna. Photo: City of Kelowna

Outdoor digital signage not welcome in Kelowna

New sign bylaw restricts use of digital imaging

Animated digital signs won’t become a visual blight on Kelowna.

A new sign bylaw being developed by the city planning department calls for digital animated signs to be banned on commercial buildings, but allowed for public service buildings such as churches or schools.

These signs are common in urban centres and use LCD (Liquid Crystal Display, LED (Light Admitting Diode), projection and electronic-paper to display digital images, video, web pages or text.

“While new technologies allow sign lighting levels to be better controlled, there does not appear to be any benefit to residents of the city in expanding the deployment of these signs and it would not add to the visual character of the community,” stated a sign bylaw report to city council.

“Based on city policy and public comment, there does not appear to be any compelling reason to expand digital animated signage to commercial zones with this iteration of the bylaw.”

Related: Kelowna moves to eliminate signage clutter

The report was discussed at Monday’s council meeting, as an update to the ongoing review process of the sign bylaw.

Ryan Smith, City of Kelowna community planning department manager, said the review process began in the fall of 2015 and has been done internally, resulting in the process being delayed at times due to staff shortages and other planning priorities.

“Signage is one of those projects that is not particularly glamorous to work on and everyone has an opinion about it so it is hard to come up with policies that please everyone,” Smith told council.

“We have had four different planners working on this file since 2015. I was the first.”

The update presented by Smith to council was the result of consultation work done with the public and stakeholders in the signage business to revise a signage bylaw that has fallen under criticism for being confusing and excessively bureaucratic.

Smith said the latest revision phase, which council approved, calls for changes in many existing signage bylaw rules.

Besides the digital signage aspect, a potential ban is also proposed for temporary portable signs because they create visual clutter.

Council had expressed concerns about the impact of such a ban on small businesses, so staff has proposed new rules for temporary portable signs, subject to a review in three years to judge their effectiveness.

Agricultural land signs would remain limited in size from one to three square metres depending on the land parcel size.

Temporary marketing signs hung on building facades would be limited to 90 days per year.

Sandwich board signs would be permitted on private property during business hours only and specifically along the wider sidewalks of Bernard Avenue.

There is a ban in place currently for this form of signage, which several groups consulted have called excessive regulation while only 25 per cent of 598 survey respondents found them intrusive or very intrusive.

Real estate signs would fall under residential, with a six-month time limit, and commercial properties, subject to replacement or removal when showing evidence of weather wear or graffiti.

The review also calls for the hiring of another bylaw officer to focus on policing the signage bylaw, with the cost of $86,000 a year paid for by permit fees and bylaw violation fines.

Coun. Luke Stack applauded the added bylaw enforcement position.

“The real offending type signs are obvious but we need someone in place to focus on that, rather than being a shared-job responsibility, and get it dealt with,” Stack said.

Mayor Colin Basran said revising the existing sign bylaw is not an easy undertaking.

“I myself wish it had gone a little bit further in some areas but it’s hard to please everyone and this is a good middle ground,” he said of the bylaw revisions.

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