The Town of Gibsons is practising a double standard when it comes to enforcing its third-party sign regulations, say critics of The George hotel and condo development.
The issue of sign fairness was raised at the Save Gibsons Waterfront rally that drew about 150 people to Winegarden Park last Saturday, March 1.
John Geoffrion, owner of Seaweeds Health Food Store on Gibsons Way, said the Town recently refused to grant him permission to place a sign for his business at another business location.
I was told no, that would be against the bylaw, as it would be considered a third-party location, so I am not allowed to do this, Geoffrion said. I then enquired how come there are big 'I Support The George' signs at a bed and breakfast. Would this not be a third-party location?I was told that the Town had consulted their lawyer and that this was OK as it was just a business concept.
Since this so-called business concept is funded and expensed by an existing business, Geoffrion argued, this to me is not playing by the rules, as the rules appear to be different for his business than for mine.
In a written response to Geoffrion's complaint, Gibsons corporate officer Selina Williams said the Town's sign bylaw defines third-party signs as any sign that advertises goods, products, services or facilities at premises other than where the sign is located.
At present there are no goods, services, products or facilities to advertise at the premises referred to on those signs, Williams wrote. Staff have reviewed the bylaw and determined that the signs in question do not meet the definition of a sign, but rather are considered freedom of expression. The Town does not censure freedom of expression or freedom of speech.
But Geoffrion said the George signs go beyond freedom of speech.
They are advertising a business, he said. They are advertising future goods and services of The George.Are all new businesses allowed to advertise this way before they officially open?
The third-party sign issue was also raised at the rally by Gibsons resident Jane Degnan, who made news in January by distributing letters to some Landing merchants that were displaying pro-George signs, advising them that she and her family would not support any business that politicizes the shopping experience.
At the rally, Degnan urged the crowd to let the mayor and council know if they did not agree with the Town's interpretation of the George signs as freedom of expression.
Gibsons chief administrative officer Mani Machado said the George signs displayed by some homeowners and businesses are expressing support for a project, not advertising a business.
People are free to express their views on their own property, Machado said.
Gibsons has very well defined signage requirements, he said, and the main rationale for disallowing third-party advertising is to reduce the proliferation of signage in the Town.
In this particular case, 'I Support The George' is just a statement. And we don't feel we have an obligation to infringe on that, he said.
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