B.C. Ferries LED sign blocked by residents

NANAIMO – B.C. Ferries could be back to the drawing board after city council asked the corporation to listen to residents' concerns.

Concerned Brechin Hill residents have temporarily blocked B.C. Ferries’ bid to install two LED signs at the Departure Bay terminal.

Nanaimo city council halted the approval process on two LED information signs for Departure Bay ferry terminal last week, after residents highlighted issues of poor consultation, blocked views and reduced property values.

B.C. Ferries is looking to install new displays to better communicate ‘operational and safety’ messages with drivers that can’t always hear public announcements.

Jason Bowman, director of terminal operations, said the move is about customer service, but stressed the signs will also be respectful to neighbours.

Residents aren’t all convinced. A 14-metre tall, freestanding sign is planned for an area directly behind homes, which could block waterfront vistas and spoil backyard enjoyment. And yet – there has been very little effort by B.C. Ferries to consult with homeowners,  they say.

B.C. Ferries confirmed it knocked on the doors of five homeowners that could be disturbed by the LED lights – it’s primary concern – but only two people were available at the time.

Beach Drive resident Daniel Lines said he lives 150 metres from the proposed sign, which is “basically the size of a carport,” and would block a vista he’s held for close to two decades. The first he heard about the project was two weeks ago when he received a notice from the City of Nanaimo.

“B.C. Ferries never once tried to contact us in any way and we are probably the closest to the sign … I find that very, very difficult to take,” he said, adding that he wants to see a new plan that doesn’t impede waterfront views.

Since September, Nanaimo city officials have been considering a development variance permit for twin displays at Departure Bay ferry terminal that are larger than the city’s allowable limit. The animated LED way-finding signs would be placed on the terminal loading ramp and near vehicle waiting lanes.

Last Monday, councillors heard the latter poses concerns for area residents, prompting them to put the brakes on permit approval and direct B.C. Ferries to meet with the Brechin Hill Community Association.

Tina Mark, a Beach Drive resident, is pleased B.C. Ferries could be going back to the drawing board. She said she found out about the project just over a week ago, which raised suspicions B.C. Ferries was trying to slide the project by. They could have handed out information booklets or put in newspaper notices long before they did, she said. Instead “they have gone about it very ninja.”

The Beach Drive resident  is also concerned about the brightness and size of the structure.

“It’s almost three times the height of the allowable bylaw,” Mark said. “I know the ferry terminal was here before we were, but we bought here for a reason – so we didn’t have neighbours behind us and so we had a view of the water. Now we are going to have a view of the sign?”

Michael Harrison, chairman of the Brechin Hill Community Association, will revisit communication options with B.C. Ferries over the next 30 days before city officials reconsider the application. He said the size and glare of the one free-standing sign will effect many more residents than those B.C. Ferries previously attempted to contact and hopes to now see  outreach to hear citizens’ worries and ideas for solutions.

“Let’s find out what’s good for the [area] generally and the people directly impacted,” Harrison said.