Nanaimo council has given initial green lights to a B.C. Ferries proposal to install two large LED-lighted signs at Departure Bay ferry terminal.
Mayor John Ruttan and councillors voted Monday to send a development variance permit application to the required public notification stage as part of the approval process.
B.C. Ferries intends to set up the animated signs to as part of a multi-terminal project to keep passengers better informed of ferry departure and arrival times, delays and other operational issues, according to public affairs manager Darin Guenette.
"This is not meant to be an advertising platform," he said.
The signs would each be 4.1 metres by 7.3 metres. One would be free-standing near the terminal building, while the other would be mounted to the car deck used for loading vehicles into waiting vessels. City bylaw states that signs that are "animated or includes animated changeable copy" are not allowed without a development variance permit.
Guenette said B.C. Ferries installed similar signage at its Duke Point ferry terminal over a year ago where it received positive feedback.
However, Duke Point is surrounded by industrial properties, while Departure Bay is nestled in one of Nanaimo's oldest neighbourhoods.
For that reason, Guenette said the corporation reached out to the Brechin Hill Community Association early on to inform residents of their plans.
He said B.C. Ferries Corporation plans on meeting with residents next week to show them designs and plans for the new fixtures.
He added that light from the signs is not glaring and that the signs will be placed so as to not obstruct neighbourhood views. The signs will also be oriented towards cars in the waiting area and towards the ocean to mitigate light pollution concerns.
Guenette said the ferry terminal will continue to use an audio announcement system to alert passengers to ferry service updates.
But he said the expectation is that there will be fewer of them once the signs are added, "which is nice for those early morning (sailings) and late at night for the people who are nearby and can hear the terminal."
Guenette said B.C. Ferries rarely receives noise complaints from nearby residents.
"What we do hear from time to time from customers waiting in a lot is they don't always hear public address announcements very well," he said.
"They're not entirely sure, 'was that my ferry loading, or is that the next ferry' that kind of stuff."
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