Sparwood council renews Vantage Point signs

Sparwood reconsidered its decision to reject real estate developer Coal Town Properties’ (CTP) renewal application for its highway signs.

Due to a request by a pair of councillors, the District of Sparwood reconsidered its decision to reject Sparwood real estate developer Coal Town Properties’ (CTP) renewal application for its highway signs and went on to provide a renewal for the signs until December 2015.

Council had previously denied CTP’s renewal application on two occasions, first in July 2014 and then more recently at the Jan. 19 council meeting when Bill Harker, a delegate from CTP, approached council.

Harker noted that had CTP sold the 21 houses and 59 lots it still owns, renewal for the signage would not be necessary.

“The slow down in China and low coal prices have obviously negatively impacted … our ability to sell houses. We are trying to sell additional houses for permanent residence in Sparwood and signage is an extremely important aspect of trying to sell real estate,” said Harker.

The signs in question have been up for the last three years and are located at 1302 Hwy. 3, 6000 Hwy. 43 and 1800 Sparwood Heights Dr., advertising the sale of homes and lots at the Vantage Point development.

Harker expressed confusion as to why the district had denied the renewal.

“Over the past three years we have had a renewing license arrangement with the District of Sparwood for three signs. We have paid just under $11,000 for the right to maintain those signs over the last three years … We are not aware of any complaints about our signs, the district generates income from the signage and, much more importantly, benefits with more permanent residents in the community due to our signage,” said Harker.

Mayor Cal McDougall responded that these types of signs are meant to be temporary, which is why renewal is given in only six-month increments.

“Certainly I understand that times are different now than even three years ago but I think the objective of the recommendation earlier was to clean up some of the signage that is on the highway,” responded McDougall.

Manager of Planning Nelson Wight seconded this notion and stated that CTP was encouraged to take part in the multi-business sign agreement with the Sparwood Chamber of Commerce in order to avoid business signage clutter on the highway.

“Vantage Point is now participating in that program,” said Wight, “however, according to the Ministry of Transportation, you cannot have signage outside of that program. That violation is another reason why we recommended they be removed.”

Wight said that during the previous renewal for the signs to CTP in July, it was indicated it would be the developer’s final renewal.

Coun. Lois Halko agreed on the recommendation to not renew the sign’s lease.

“Vantage Point has had numerous extensions and certainly we appreciate Mr. Harker’s business and that is one of the reasons why the extensions kept occurring, but with the last extension they were given notice it would be the last one. Signage is a huge issue and a topic on its own and I am concerned that if we extend again we set a precedent for other businesses who may want an extension for their signage on the highway,” said Halko.

Despite council deciding to reject CTP’s renewal application and force the removal of the signs within two weeks, Coun. Brad Bowen and Coun. John Baher asked for the reconsideration of council’s decision at the Feb. 2 council meeting.

“I would like for council to reconsider our previous decision,” said Bowen. “I have come to realize that it is in the best interest of Sparwood to keep these signs. We are trying to attract more permanent residents to the district and CTP is trying to sell houses. This is a win/win situation for us.”

Halko remained steadfast in her recommendation to not renew the lease but ultimately she and Coun. Jenna Jensen were outvoted by Bowen, Baher and Coun. Joe Jarina on the matter, thus resulting in the renewal of the signs on the highway until December 2015.