Tofino amends sign bylaw, tougher decisions upcoming

Putting a permanent sign outside a Tofino business is a little easier thanks to a small amendment to Tofino’s sign control bylaw that council approved on Jan. 21.

The amendment allows for a business owner to apply for a regular sign permit to build a new freestanding sign while not also having to apply for a development permit.

Before this amendment was made business owners were forced to obtain both a development permit and a sign permit.

According to a report by planning assistant Juliet Van Vliet, one of the intents of the amendment was to “increase voluntary compliance with the sign bylaw by making the process more reasonable for people to follow.”

Her report suggests a regular sign permit costs $100 while a development permit costs $1,500.

“A development permit is an expensive and significant procedure intended to ensure new developments (generally buildings) are designed in a way that suits the town’s general aesthetic,” Van Vliet’s report read.

The report stated the amendment was minor in nature so no public hearing was required.

Van Vliet told the Westerly News that district staff came across the double whammy during its review of Tofino’s sign control bylaw.

“When you review a topic you spend a lot of time analyzing all the related documents so that was one of the things we noticed through that process that needed to be amended,” she said.

The amendment was only for permanent signs and did not affect temporary sandwich board signs.

The issue of temporary signage falls under the sign bylaw review, which is still underway.

“Council asked us to review it as part of the general zoning bylaw review and the draft of the sign bylaw is still forthcoming,” Van Vliet said. “Council hasn’t seen it they haven’t been able to discuss it or look it over yet.”

Under the district’s current sign bylaw, businesses can only display a temporary sign: during an opening or closing of a business, to advertise a new business while a permanent sign is under construction, if construction interferes with a permanent sign, or by resolution of council.

This bylaw made headlines in 2012 when council voted to allow Tofino Travellers Guesthouse owner Nick Jacquet permission to display a sandwich board sign outside his business at a Feb. 28 regular meeting only to rescind this decision during a Sept. 11 in-camera meeting.

Then-Mayor Perry Schmunk told the Westerly News that February 28’s motion needed to be rescinded for procedural reasons but assured that council would look into the bylaw.

“We have said that we would get to it this Fall, which might sound a little vague at this point, but it is on the radar to get to,” he said.

No headway seemed to be made and Tofino had a new mayor when council directed staff to review the district’s zoning bylaw as well as the sign bylaw in June 2013.

Eight months of staff time was initially allocated to the project but this was later extended to 10 months, according to Van Vliet.

Included in this review was sign control, parking, amenities, float homes, resort commercial areas and mixed density areas, according to Van Vliet who said sign control and parking were considered public priority topics.

“In our initial consultation with the public through stakeholder interviews and through a public meeting they came out as issues of significant public concern,” she said.

Van Vliet said the work towards parking and sign control is “substantially complete” and both drafts are going through a final review before landing on council’s desk.

She said a report on parking will likely appear before council during Tofino’s regular meeting on February 11. reporter@Westerlynews.ca