Don’t expect to see forests of election signs at Surrey intersections in the future.
Surrey council voted unanimously Monday night to ban election signs on public property and highways throughout the city.
According to a staff report to council, 1,831 candidate signs were removed during the 2018 civic election campaign that did not conform to city requirements, which prohibited signs being erected within 25 metres of intersections.
Removing the illegally placed signs cost the city a pretty penny last fall.
“The total fees collected in 2018 for removed election signs was $8,600 which very nominally offsets the City’s cost that amounted to approximately $160,000, $42,300 for Engineering staff and $117,700 for Bylaw Enforcement staff). This amount included labour, equipment, disposal and administration,” the report states.
Councillor Brenda Locke said there are “so many great reasons” to enact the ban.
“First of all, the cost to Surrey to manage election signs is getting cost prohibitive and it’s actually kind of silly,” she said ahead of the vote.
“Litter and waste and all the other things that go along with sign games and sign wars that happen in elections. I’m very supportive of this for that reason. The most important, of course, is to get rid of all of the signs that end up littering our streets and in our landfill. They are traffic disruptors,” she added.
Mayor Doug McCallum said he, too, was happy to support the changes.
“I think during the campaign we indicated that if we did get elected we would bring this sign bylaw into force in Surrey. The criticism that we received during the campaign, or I can say myself anyways, on signs, was horrific. There was many, many complaints,” McCallum said.
“But I think the most important thing we felt very strongly is so many of the signs were a safety concern at our intersections. Certainly as I drove around the community and seeing all the signs at major intersections, a lot of them blocking the view of the cross streets and so forth, it was a real danger,” he added.
Managing election signage in 2018 was a “challenging endeavour” for the city, staff noted in a corporate report to council that outlined the proposed changes.
Staff noted the proliferation of election signage during campaigns is “both distracting to motorists and places a significant burden on City resources, at the expense of the taxpayers, to ensure compliance.”
In the past, signs removed by the city could be retrieved by candidates, at a fee of $25 per sign.
The report highlighted the process when non-confirming election signs were found in year’s past.
Staff would be required take a photo of the sign, measure the distance it sat from the curb to determine if it was illegal, create a bylaw sign file (which included uploading pictures, notes and location regarding the sign). Then, staff removed the sign and delivered it to city’s Operations Centre compound.
Staff were also required to deal with candidate calls for removed signs.
Arranging for sign retrieval, the report noted, involved the following process: phoning back candidates and explaining the process and fees; checking the sign log to determine if a candidate’s sign was retrieved (and the number of signs that were retrieved); checking the sign compound to determine if the signs were there; phoning back the candidate with the total number of signs and fee amount required; scheduling pick-up times; meeting candidates at reception and confirming payment has been received; and finally, meeting candidates at the pick-up location.
The approved bylaw amendments will be officially adopted at a later date.