In a split vote Stettler town council gave first reading to a bylaw that would ban portable signs along Hwy 12 through the community all the way from Smitty’s to No Frills.
Council voted 4-2 to first reading of a bylaw re-designating the land from 5804 – 47 Ave. to 5100 – 47 Ave. to public use identifying the land as parkland, which means no portable or inflatable signs would be allowed. During its regular meeting Aug. 7, Mayor Sean Nolls, Councillors Malcolm Fischer, Cheryl Barros and Gord Lawlor voted in favour. Councillors Wayne Smith and Al Campbell voted against. Coun. Scott Pfeiffer was absent.
“That strip is a showpiece of our town and those (signs) spoil it,” said Coun. Fischer.
“They are not attractive and they are an eyesore, those are the concerns I have heard throughout the time I’ve been a councillor.”
Coun. Fischer said this is his third term and what struck him when he first campaigned during his first term was the “plethora of complaints” over two issues, derelict properties and signs.
“Two terms later they are still an issue,” he said.
Coun. Fischer said complaints about the signs littering Stettler are coming from ordinary citizens and not special interest groups, nor from friends of friends prompting people to complain.
“These are not friends with someone over there, they are regular homeowners and some prominent business people.”
Coun. Fischer said safety in the school zone is a concern with signs potentially distracting a driver, causing the driver to hit a child with their vehicle while reading the signs.
But Coun. Wayne Smith disagreed the signs were a safety issue.
“The safety issue with kids, I have to disagree. I think that concern is hypothetical at best. I don’t see that as a real issue.”
Coun. Lawlor said he uses signs but added that his signs are out of town and he was in favour of banning signs along that strip.
“It just makes sense not to have signs to distract.
Mayor Sean Nolls said he knows more communities that don’t allow signs than do allow signs and suggested council give first reading to the bylaw so the public can give their feedback. After first reading, a public hearing is planned to get resident feedback. Council could make amendments to the bylaw after community feedback and before second reading.
“The best thing we can do is take this to first reading so we can get more feedback from people in town who are upset about it.”
Likewise, Coun. Barros agreed.
“If we don’t do first reading we can’t get the public view on how they feel about this. This way we are giving the public an opportunity to come speak.”
During the citizen’s forum portion of the regular council meeting Aug. 7, Laurie and Darryl Rachar of Magnetsigns Stettler appealed to council not to ban portable signs from Smitty’s to No Frills.
“Democracy is not based on a few complaints,” said Laurie. “Let us remind you that you don’t have to act based on a few complaints.
“This is not prudent use of your time or your positions to do bylaw changes based on a minor few if that is the case.”
She added that if the town doesn’t allow signs along this portion of Hwy 12 it could affect non-profit groups who advertise their yearly events.
“Keeping these venues alive adds huge positive spinoffs to the community, both financially and well-being of the community.”
During town council’s regular meeting on July 3 council agreed to review the bylaw after receiving numerous complaints about the dozens of signs in town. Residents complained they were a safety issue and an eyesore. Of concern are the six signs from Smitty’s to No Frills, which are in the school zone and could pose a safety concern.
Read more: Poll: residents divided on issues of signs