Council denied RBCs application for increased maximum permitted area of its fascia signs, but allowed a variance from the required wood, metal or glass to a plastic polymer for the parking lot sign. (Thom Barker photo)

Council denies RBC sign variance application

Bank wanted to keep its existing, non-conforming coverage, which is double what the bylaw permits

Smithers Town Council has once again denied RBC’s application for a variance from the Sign Bylaw to replace its fascia signs.

The application requested an increase in the permitted area for fascia signs from 4.3 square metres to 9.8 square metres. In fact, what the bank is asking for is to keep the same coverage it currently has. The existing signs are considered “existing, non-conforming” because they were installed prior to the adoption of the Sign Bylaw.

RBC also tried unsuccessfully last year with a variance application that also requested variances for lighting, materials and lettering relief along with the increased maximum permitted area.

“I don’t have any trouble with people applying for things,” said acting Mayor Gladys Atrill. “You never know, there’s something that they’d like to do, they’d just like to put signs up that look different and there was a note from the agent… saying we’re going to try again and we’re going to try to keep the same coverage so fair enough, but at the same time we’re trying to create a certain ambience downtown and I think it’s the right thing to do. There’s a lot of room for signage on the building and in this case they’re just asking for more than what’s permitted and so council voted to uphold and ask the company to put up signs that fit.”

The application was brought up at the Advisory Planning Commission (APC) meeting in December, Atrill said,

“The question was asked even at the APC, ‘if we have the sign bylaws, why don’t we just uphold them?’,” she said. “The bylaws try to create a certain ambience downtown and why don’t we just stick with them, and so the recommendation from the APC was to deny and when council went through it the other night, at the end the vote was to deny.”

Atrill acknowledged the Sign Bylaw remains controversial, but said current council owes it to those that came before to preserve the character of downtown.

“I think now, being on council, part of the job is to uphold the vision that came before us and support the work that came before us. Downtown Smithers is different than the downtowns of other communities and it’s not accidental; it came with a lot of work and it came with determination and it continues to take work and determination.”

“I understand that the people who operate businesses in order to do well need to be masters of independent thinking and have to have great ideas and creativity, but at the same time part of our job is to uphold what makes our community special so I think this is important.”

Council did allow an exemption, though, for the bank’s freestanding sign in the parking lot behind the building to use komacel/polyvinyl chloride (a plastic polymer) for lettering only, a variance from the bylaw’s requirement of wood, metal or glass.

Smithers council

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