Nanaimo city council pulls plug on B.C. Ferries’ proposed LED signs

NANAIMO – City council has unanimously opposed a development variance for three LED displays at the Departure Bay ferry terminal.

Nanaimo city council has shut down B.C. Ferries’ bid to install LED screens at the Departure Bay Terminal.

On Monday, Nanaimo city council unanimously nixed B.C. Ferries’ proposal to install three nine-metre high LED screens at the Departure Bay ferry terminal, after residents expressed concerns about light pollution and inconsistency with their neighbourhood plan.

Nanaimo city officials have been considering a development variance permit for new LED displays since September of last year, when B.C. Ferries asked for screens larger than the allowable limit. Originally the plan called for two, including a 14-metre tall, freestanding sign the ferry corporation said would help it better communicate operational and safety messages to drivers who can’t always hear public announcements.

Residents, however, highlighted issues of blocked views and reduced property values, prompting the corporation to propose an alternative plan for three nine-metre high signs.

“I appreciate the fact that B.C. Ferries has modified their plans, their proposals, to some degree but it’s still a major impact on the neighbourhood,” said Coun. Diana Johnstone.

Coun. Ted Greves said B.C. Ferries had done everything they could to make it work, but the signs are not appropriate in a residential area, while Mayor John Ruttan said he felt better consultation should have taken place because the neighbourhood is still not satisfied.

“I am very uncomfortable myself with where we are today on it,” he said.

The decision to turn down the variance permit was good news to Michael Harrison, chairman of the Brechin Hill Community Association, who says while he was surprised it was unanimous, the proposal was also unreasonable and an imposition on people who live in the area and potential future development along Stewart Avenue.

“The residents, the future residents of the area near Departure Bay and the creatures on Newcastle Island are grateful to council for their wise decision not to allow LED signs,” he said.

B.C. Ferries, however, finds the vote disappointing, according to spokesman Darin Guenette, who said they had made changes after hearing residents’ concerns and thought there were advantages to the plan.

The LED screens were a result of customer feedback and would have highlighted information like ferry delays or when to load. The more efficient the terminal is, the less impact on nearby residents, Guenette said, adding that if off loading and loading happens quickly and efficiently, then any noise or light involved is minimized.

“If you are not as efficient then residents are going to notice it more. So that’s why we thought it was really working toward a win-win,” he said.

Not having the proposed LED signs, won’t make things worse, “it’s just not improving our ways of getting information to our customers and perhaps minimizing things like extra public address announcements,” he said.