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No to digital billboards: Coq. council
The city of Coquitlam could face legal action after council this week held up its billboard ban.
On Monday, city council voted 4-3 against changing its sign bylaw, with the majority of councillors saying third-party digital billboards clutter the scenery and could cause driver distraction.
CBS Outdoor and CP Rail have waited four years for the city to amend its sign bylaw to allow 18 billboards along the CPR corridor on Highway 1 and Lougheed Highway.
Since 2009, city staff have consulted with the public as well as the sign industry on the controversial topic and recommended that city council allow billboards — measuring 60 sq. m each — at three highway locations.
City staff also reviewed the practices of neighbouring municipalities and found Burnaby does not allow any third-party advertising or billboards while New Westminster, Surrey, Vancouver and Port Moody do in some form (Port Moody council has banned billboards).
As well, city staff also suggested that council levy fees amounting to $4,000 per sign.
Coun. Terry O'Neill said the proposed policy would allow for freedom of expression while Coun. Brent Asmundson said city staff had offered a "good balance" for the community. He also cited an Ontario court case that stopped municipalities from banning billboards outright.
"We do not have a choice, really, in this matter," Asmundson said. "These companies will take us to court if we don't deal with this issue."
"We have no other choice but to allow it," Coun. Lou Sekora said, adding billboards in other cities don't bother him when he's driving.
Still, Mayor Richard Stewart, who opposed the bylaw change along with councillors Mae Reid, Craig Hodge and Neal Nicholson, argued billboards are designed so drivers "look away from the road" and are "meant to take away from the natural beauty of our community."
Stewart also compared the advertising to a "big flyer in the sky."
"I don't like them," Hodge said. "They are there for one purpose and that's to distract the driver's attention.
Nicholson said he wants to send a message to advertising companies that council is in charge of its community — not them — but also warned, "I think the advertisers may challenge us."
Calls to CBS Outdoor were not returned before The Tri-City News' print deadline Tuesday.