Editorial: What's the problem?

GRANT SHIMMIN
Last updated 05:00 24/01/2014
mark mcdonald
PUBLIC SUPPORT: Are these signs outside a butcher's shop a problem?

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OPINION: "Where a sign is, in the opinion of council, dangerous or creating hazardous conditions for traffic or pedestrians, notice may be given requiring the sign to be removed."

That is the first sentence of clause 213.3 of the Timaru District Consolidated Bylaw 2013. It's a piece of local legislation that has prompted much discussion in the past 24 hours, including just one example in the adjacent Letters to the Editor.

As I write, we await answers from the council to a number of questions relating to the bylaw and the specific situation of butcher Mark McDonald, who has been asked to take down signs outside his business, Export Meats, on Church St, following a complaint.

As I say, I'm not yet privy to the reasoning behind the series of letters from the council a defiant Mr McDonald has received over a period of six months, warning that he faces confiscation of the signs and a fine for non-compliance should he choose not to remove them. That reasoning is important and we will, of course, reflect it when we receive the answers we expect the council to provide today.

Mr McDonald has told us he was told the signs, on his veranda posts, could obstruct car doors. He's also added, and is supported by the correspondents on this page in that regard, that cars cannot legally park alongside the signs, due to yellow lines.

It's hard to see, however, how the signs outside Mr McDonald's business, and the ones which were outside that of Murray Gibson, a little closer to the CBD down Church St, could be any more intrusive than many of those outside central Timaru businesses.

And I'm only talking signs here, not the myriad other items that are found on our CBD footpaths.

The acid test is, surely, that phrase in the middle of the opening paragraph here, "dangerous or creating hazardous conditions for traffic or pedestrians".

We understand there has been one public complaint regarding Mr McDonald's signs, which have been in place for 14 years. Are we to believe that's enough to ask him to make a potentially costly change in a part of Timaru where pedestrian traffic is light and, as mentioned before, there are yellow lines outside the business, preventing vehicles from legally parking there?

That would suggest the bylaw is only enforced in response to complaints. Or are regular checks made, throughout Timaru and other towns in the district? If not, it smacks of an inconsistent approach.

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Again, the council's thinking is needed to form a full picture. But it's tough to accept that none of the signs in Stafford St are "dangerous or creating hazardous conditions" and yet Mr McDonald's ones are.

- The Timaru Herald

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