Submitters want end to'sign wars'

Stopping ''sign wars'' between businesses is among the priorities raised by submitters on the Queenstown Lakes District Council's signs plan change.

Twenty-one submissions were received on plan change 48, which aims to simplify and streamline signage provisions in the district plan.

Until recently, the district's signage was controlled through both the plan and a council bylaw. The latter has been scrapped.

Sign rules have also been subject to environmental monitoring, which has identified areas for improvements, including amendments to the definition of ''sign'', providing for signage platforms and identification of signs within those as a permitted activity.

Plan change 48 also proposes changes to the activity status for most sign limit breaches from non-complying to permitted, controlled or discretionary; greater clarity over the control of signs in building windows; and increasing signage allowances to match the scale of commercial buildings.

Submitter Barbara East, of Wanaka, said off-site signs should continue to be classified as non-complying or prohibited, rather than discretionary, and she sought the removal of a policy providing for off-site signs in circumstances where displaying a sign where the activity occurs is ''not practical''.

She could think of no instance where it would not be practical to display a sign on site, yet many circumstances where it would be ''extremely desirable'' for a business owner to have an off-site sign, - such as a business located outside the CBD area - which might be undesirable in a visual amenity sense.

''As we have seen, over and over again, as soon as one sign is located [illegally] off site, it spawns a plethora of competing signs,'' Mrs East wrote.

''The first sign then gets bigger to outdo the competition and a signs war commences ... Businesses in the CBD that pay CBD prices feel very aggrieved when signage is erected directing traffic away from the CBD when they are only allowed to have on-site signage.''

Federated Farmers said off-site signage should be a permitted activity for businesses in remote rural locations so operators could advertise in areas with higher foot or vehicle traffic or signpost turn-offs to make it easier for customers to find their business.

Books and Toys (Wanaka) Ltd, trading as Paper Plus Wanaka, called for an exemption to the rule that window signs not exceed 50% of the window. The store held ''blackout sales'' and other special store promotions requiring windows be 100% covered with signage at certain times of the year, it said.

Commercial and retail property company DNZ Property Fund said council opposition to signage for first-floor premises had made securing tenants at Frankton's Remarkables Park Shopping Centre difficult.

Plan change 48 proposed an ''excessive level of control of signage that is unjustifiable'' with regards to the distinctive environment and setting of Remarkables Park, DNZ said.

A joint submission from the Lakes District Museum, the Arrowtown Planning Advisory Group (APAG) and the Arrowtown Promotion and Business Association called for plan change 48 to recognise the ''special character'' of central Arrowtown as a heritage precinct where ''inappropriate signage is starting to proliferate''.

It suggested a return to a previous system where the APAG became a ''vetting'' agency for Arrowtown's signs.

A submission from supermarket operator Progressive Enterprises Ltd said sign sizes proposed in the plan change were ''wholly inadequate'' for its Queenstown supermarkets and out of step with accepted signage throughout the rest of New Zealand.

Remarkables Park Ltd said plan change 48 should be amended to reflect the importance of sign quality, rather than focusing only on size and quantity.

The plan change would result in a significant ''double-up'' in resource consent requirements for buildings and signs and the two should be considered together.

The Wanaka Chamber of Commerce suggested a rule be introduced requiring a building owner to designate a proposed signage platform at the time an application for building or resource consent was submitted.

Submissions from developer Allan Dippie's companies, Wanaka Hardware and Building Supplies Ltd, trading as Wanaka Mitre 10, Orchard Road Holdings Ltd and Willowridge Developments Ltd, opposed the move to require consent for all signs in commercial areas, on the grounds it was an inefficient use of the resource management process and an unnecessary cost and time expense for business operators.

The QLDC has called for further submissions, to be received by May 21, before a public hearing to assess the plan change.

A decision will then be issued by the council to withdraw, retain or modify the plan change.

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