Cariboo theme sign bylaw a bone of contention

After complaints Williams Lake city council is considering making its new theme signage bylaw voluntary.

After being questioned by a business owner about the city’s new signage bylaw requiring signage fit within the “Cariboo Theme,” city council is considering amending that requirement to “voluntary” compliance with the general guidelines of the theme for businesses spending less than $30,000.

At its committee of the whole meeting Aug. 28, council and staff received and discussed a report from city planner Liliana Dragowska about the sign bylaw requirements and complaints about the bylaw received by Gustafson Chrysler Jeep.

In the city’s official community plan, the Cariboo theme is defined as encompassing the area’s ranching, forestry and mining history. The plan says the theme was reflected in downtown buildings as early as the 1930s, with the construction of the western style Delainey building on Oliver Street being an example.

“The past official community plan encouraged the use of natural materials such as wood, river rock, and stones that help to build that Cariboo character in our downtown core and in the community in general,” states an excerpt from the present OCP.

Some examples of architectural suggestions in the bylaw are the use of river stones or paving stones, different types of siding materials, logs for columns or accents, detailed grills and railings, wooden trellises or arbors, different types of lighting or artwork.

Things made with natural products that are found within the region’s resource economy, Dragowska said.

In her report she pointed to Wal Mart, Safeway, Dairy Queen and Best Western as recent successes in complying with the theme in ways that weren’t too cost prohibitive or required major changes.

“Within our OCP, the Cariboo theme is not prescriptive, it’s suggestive,” she added.

The city is not asking businesses to change elements of a sign, but rather elements within the sign facade.

“In the case of a freestanding sign, we’ve asked business owners to incorporate rocks in the base of the sign. We didn’t ask them to change the sign, or the branding of it, nothing like that,” Dragowska clarified.

Kerry Gustafson, owner of Gustafson’s Chrysler Jeep, told the Tribune he’s spending close to $1 million in renovations to the dealership in Williams Lake. Having to fit his signage into the “Cariboo Theme” is not practical, he said.

“When it comes to national brand signs there is no way for any business in Williams Lake to comply with the bylaw. When it appears all of a sudden at the end of a project like this, it’s really really difficult, and uses up a lot of time and energy to get it changed, which is what we had to try to do,” Gustafson explained, adding the new signage bylaw was passed in the spring of 2012, months after the renovation work began.

If Williams Lake wants national or brand companies to come to town, Gustafson advocated the theme requirement has to be removed completely, not only for work under $30,000.

“We don’t need to have everything in Williams Lake looking rustic. My feeling is if a company is spending a lot of money on a renovation or a new project, the city government should allow business to do what’s reasonable. I’m trying to do an image compliant building for my dealership, but it feels like the city is trying to tell me how to spend my money,” Gustafson said, adding the OCP is a large document and it is not easy for a business person to know what it contains.

“When you come up against this thing of logs, wood and rustic, you think ‘I don’t want that on my building.’ Why should I have to go fight with the city to spend my money because someone in the near present decided that’s the way Williams Lake should look?”

During the discussion at the meeting, Mayor Kerry Cook said the challenge for council is to determine whether Gustafson’s request is reasonable.

“We’re just starting the process of going through the branding process, which is also developing a theme. I’ve had people talk to me about that and how that fits in with our current OCP. We also said in our business strategy that we want to be open for business as well. The challenge we have as elected officials is finding what is reasonable,” Cook said.

Coun. Geoff Bourdon opposed amending the bylaw, saying it was recently amended and passed only a few months ago.

“I look at it differently. If we want to be business friendly then we have to look at promoting our city. Some of the most successful cities in the world for tourism are successful because they have a theme. If we don’t stick with some theme that we’ve identified then there will be nothing to set us apart from any other city,” Bourdon said, adding if the city doesn’t require businesses to comply to a theme then there’s no point in having one.

Coun. Sue Zacharias echoed Bourdon’s comments, adding the bylaw falls on the heels of the OCP process where the public expressed an interest in a unified design and facade program throughout the city.

“Our city is starting to look really nifty, and I agree we should stand behind our process. There will be some complaints, and if someone wants a pickup load of rocks I will gladly give them that if all that’s standing in the way. I don’t think it has to be rustic and I don’t think personally I’d want a lot of logs out front at my business place, but I’m sure I could find something, even if it was a small element,” Zacharias, who owns a concrete business in the city, added.

For small businesses the presentation of signs and buildings speak volumes about who the owners are, argued Coun. Danica Hughes.

“I really disagree. I am not about let’s conform to the norm. I like diversity and I want people to feel that they have freedom of choice. If they like the Cariboo theme and want to go that route, they can have that choice,” Hughes said. “It’s one more thing for a business to deal with and when they’re trying to get up and running, it’s a huge amount of stress.”


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Provincial funding in the amount of $300,000 has been announced for the Cariboo Regional District’s plans to improve the Anahim Lake Airport runway. (CRD photo)
$300,000 provincial funding to fuel Anahim Lake Airport runway upgrade

The recovery grant is one of 38 announced to support jobs in rural communities

Lake City Secondary School principal Craig Munroe. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
OUR HOMETOWN: Lifelong learning

Lake City Secondary School principal Craig Munroe got his first teaching job in Williams Lake

Mayor Walt Cobb waves from atop a tractor as he turns onto Oliver Street in the Daybreak Rotary’s annual Stampede Parade. Patrick Davies photo.
Lack of funding, volunteers has Daybreak Rotary bowing out of Williams Lake Stampede parade

Club learned this week it won’t be receiving local government funding, for the second year in a row

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson)
30 new COVID-19 cases, five more deaths in Interior Health

This brings the total number of cases to 7,271 since testing began

Williams Lake’s Brock Hoyer films a segment of the newly-released The Way Home in the city of Revelstoke. (Ryen Dunford photo)
Brock Hoyer stars in new snowbike film: The Way Home

The film is completely free and was released on YouTube on Jan. 22, 2021

Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.'s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
456 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., 2 deaths

Since January 2020, 78,278 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in B.C.

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP will not trigger election as long as pandemic continues: Singh

‘“We will vote to keep the government going’

“Support your city” reads a piece of graffiti outside the Ministry of Finance office. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Slew of anti-bylaw graffiti ‘unacceptable’ says Victoria mayor, police

Downtown businesses, bylaw office and Ministry of Finance vandalized Wednesday morning

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Vaccinating essential workers before seniors in B.C. could save lives: experts

A new study says the switch could also save up to $230 million in provincial health-care costs

The late Michael Gregory, 57, is accused of sexually exploiting six junior high students between 1999 and 2005. (Pixabay)
Former Alberta teacher accused of sexually assaulting students found dead in B.C.

Mounties say Michael Gregory’s death has been deemed ‘non-suspicious’

According to a new poll, a majority of Canadians want to see illicit drugs decriminalized. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Majority of Canadians think it’s high time to decriminalize illicit drugs: poll

More than two-times the B.C. residents know someone who died from an overdose compared to rest of Canada

Interior Health officially declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Creekside Landing in Vernon on Jan. 3, which was followed by the first death from the virus 10 days later. (Kaigo photo)
COVID outbreak over at Vernon care home

Creekside Landing cleared of coronavirus, despite additional death in last day

Most Read