An increase in the number of electronic billboards has highlighted a grey area in provincial and municipal policy governing the implementation of such signs.
In 2013, David Askew wanted to erect a large electronic sign to show motorists where the new uptown Askew’s location was. A minority of council opposed the sign’s implementation, citing concerns that it would set a precedent for anyone who wanted to put up a sign on their own properties. A month later, in a tie vote, council approved a variance for the sign which increased the allowable size for a freestanding sign from 24 metres square to 35.6 metres square.
At the time, Kevin Pearson, the city’s director of development services, said he thought this was the first time the city had received a request to install an electronic information sign.
Since then more digital signs have popped up around the city such as at the Barley Station Brew Pub at Highway 1 and Shuswap Street, the Shaw Centre sign that can be seen just off the Trans Canada Highway approaching Salmon Arm from the south and another sign at Village West Plaza near Mr. Mikes. The approval of these signs has not been brought up with city council in six years, posing the question: can the community expect more of them in the future?
“There could be, some people don’t like them. There’s no question about that. Some people it doesn’t bother them,” Pearson said. “Unless something has gone to council, they have pretty much met the bylaw.”
Pearson said the city does get calls about the sign in front of Chances gaming centre but the city doesn’t have any control over that since it is on First Nations land.
However, city bylaws are not the only governance affecting the signs. Pearson has had several conversations with staff from the Ministry of Transportation about the signs.
“It seems to be grey, we’ve gotten to the point where we’re hearing from the ministry, they’re questioning our approval of these signs,” Pearson said.
According to a statement from the Ministry of Transportation, as the use of digital and projected advertising displays continues to increase, so too do concerns of distracted and unsafe driving if they are not used appropriately.
“Digital and projected advertising displays are restricted from installation on any ministry right of way. They are not permitted within 300 metres of each other, or within 300 metres of decision-making points for drivers. This includes intersections, pedestrian crossings, interchanges or roundabouts,” the statement read.
The statement also confirms the ministry and the City of Salmon Arm have been in contact in relation to this issue.