The thorny question of whether the City of Red Deer should be more “business friendly” by allowing more Hwy 2 signage was debated by council on Monday.
Dynamic signs with changing message boards are not now allowed along Hwy 2 at major entry ways to the city — for aesthetic as well as safety reasons.
But several city councillors suggested on Monday this should be up for debate after a business owner requested a site exception for his property at 75 Burnt Park Drive, which borders Hwy 2 on the west side, near the 67th Street/Hwy 11 interchange.
City administrators recommended that city council refuse the request for a dynamic sign, based on its own planning regulations, which were recently reviewed and opened for public consultations.
Council also heard that Alberta Transporation does not support having a dynamic sign at the requested location for safety reasons, as it’s at the approach of an interchange.
However, several councillors were concerned strict city signage rules could prompt businesses to locate elsewhere.
Coun. Buck Buchanan said a new business/industrial node is opening up at Hwy 2 and Hwy 42 (which goes to Penhold). “Maybe that’s the next dynamic sign area.”
Coun. Dianne Wyntjes mentioned public criticism that the city doesn’t do enough to attract and retain businesses. “We talk about being more business friendly… dynamic signs are not going away.”
Coun. Michael Dawe said he favoured giving initial approval to the dynamic sign request so it would go to a hearing and he could hear directly from the applicant.
But the majority of councillors listed reasons not to give ground on this issue. For instance, Mayor Tara Veer said she stands behind the safety concerns and believes in a planning vision that avoids the visual clutter at the gateways of the city.
Coun. Tanya Handley felt if council says “yes” to this dynamic sign request, “what reason would we have to say no to anyone else?”
Coun. Frank Wong said, “I find them distracting.”
A suggestion that city administrators study the issue of allowing dynamic signs along Hwy 2 was also shot down by the majority. Coun. Vesna Higham noted so much work was recently done on the sign bylaws, “why reconsider it the first time we get an application?”
City council did give initial approval to a new and more diverse land uses for properties in the Queens Business Park Area that back onto Hwy 2 (between Hwy 11A and Hwy 11).
Noting that the current use as a vehicle dealership district, was too restrictive — especially at this economically challenging time — city council unanimously approved such additional uses as machinery sales, service and repair, industrial support services, manufacturing, rentals, outdoor storage, service stations or warehousing.
The new land use zone only stipulates that businesses locating there should not emit or create noises, odour, dust, fumes or other “nuisances.”