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SLRD to potentially remove illegal signs from Sea to Sky Highway

Some billboards along Highway 99 may be removed as they violate the SLRD’s sign bylaw from 1999.
Sea to Sky highway -- Highway 99
Several highway billboards that are not permitted by the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) may be removed from Highway 99.

Sign, sign, not everywhere a sign.

Several highway billboards that are not permitted by the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) may be removed from Highway 99.

The SLRD board was presented a staff report on April 19 that said up to five highway billboards may be removed by staff at a cost of up to $5,000. Some of the unpermitted billboards include a sign promoting Whistler edge cards, a cluster sign with advertisements for Squamish near Britannia Beach, a Wedgewood real estate sign and a sign for Whistler RV Park.

Another sign frame near Outbound Station is under consideration for removal, but Electoral Area D director, Tony Rainbow, believed it to now within the guidelines.

“He assured me that he was complying with our bylaw,” said Rainbow at the meeting.

Kim Needham, director of Planning and Development with the SLRD, reported to the board that the bylaw itself needs an update.

“It needs to be cleaned up,” she said. “This report really is just to advise of sign removal, but we will be coming back in the near future with an updated version of the sign bylaw for your review.”

There are potential fines associated with the bylaw, but Needham explained that oftentimes they are unsure who put up the sign. This is the first time they will remove signs, she said.

However, there seems to be a jurisdictional issue, at least where the Squamish Chamber of Commerce sign is concerned.

Executive director of the chamber, Chris Fehr, told The Squamish Chief it has an agreement with the provincial Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to have its sign up. 

Asked about this, the SLRD said that it stands by its report and the signs listed there as non-compliant. 

The Ministry said the sign on Highway 99 pullout towards Britannia Beach is permitted to the Squamish chamber.

“There are currently two such signs along the corridor, both permitted and installed under an Area Promotion program in the late 1990s,” the spokesperson said. 

“While the ministry does not allow private signs along provincial highways, the ministry may sometimes work with local chambers of commerce to permit signs on highway pullouts.”

Fehr said the chamber was in contact with the SLRD about the provincial permission.

According to the staff report, the bylaw was enacted in 1999 when the board was concerned about the number of billboards along the Sea to Sky Highway.

“There was discussion that ‘sign pollution' along the Sea to Sky Highway might start to resemble some of the tourist areas in the U.S., or the entry to Kelowna and other communities in B.C. where billboard signs have been able to proliferate,” reads the report.

As such, several types of signs were prohibited within 400 metres of the highway with the SLRD: 

  • Billboards
  • Signs over eight metres in area
  • Signs greater than five metres in height
  • Banners, pennants, bunting and flags (other than temporary banners, national, provincial or municipal flags)
  • Balloons or other gas-filled inflatables
  • Roof signs and signs on the deck of a canopy or deck
  • Flashing, animating or moving signs
  • Changeable copy
  • Video or electronic signs

Sign owners could appeal to the board with a development variance permit application for permission, however, so far the owners of the signs above had not done so. The report also noted many signs that were erected prior to the 1999 bylaw, which then makes them legal.

The board voted unanimously to accept the staff report in the meeting.

To read more about the removal, view the staff report from the SLRD in the April 19 board agenda.

Please note, this story was updated since it was first published to add the jurisdictional information.