New policy a “sign” of the times

Posted: 10am 31 Mar 2022

A new policy outlining responsibilities for maintenance of non-standard street “blade” signs and estate entry “statements” will provide clarity for residents and Moreton Bay Regional Council officers.

The Maintenance of Estate Embellishments policy was passed at yesterday’s council meeting after almost 50 minutes of robust debate.
While some councillors argued unique street furniture, decorative street name signs and lighting, and feature signs at entrances to housing estates contributed to a sense of community connection and pride, others raised concerns about who should pay to repair or replace them as they aged.

Containing the cost

Chief executive officer Greg Chemello said while he understood people enjoyed a unique ambiance, it would be unfair to place the maintenance burden for bespoke signs and other features on ratepayers outside the estates concerned.

Until now, Council has had no formal policy governing who is responsible for repairing, replacing or removing features installed by developers such as entry “statements”, which typically consist of an estate name sign attached to a standalone feature or boundary wall and sometimes include lighting and waterfalls.

Sense of community

Acting Mayor Jodie Shipway told the meeting she had been working with residents in Division 4 for almost two years to clearly define who was responsible for maintaining so-called embellishments as they aged.

She said while non-standard street signs and entry statements were covered by levies in some estates, in many they were not, with the residents on whose properties they sat facing expensive repair, replacement or removal bills.

Estate statement signs are commonly used as a promotional tool in marketing new residential estates, but often remain after the developer has completed work.

Cr Yvonne Barlow (Div 7) expressed concerns about non-standard street name signs not being replaced with signs of a similar standard, saying she had 48 emails from residents upset by the plan.

She cited Castle Hill estate at Murrumba Downs, which was approved as a prestigious estate by Pine Rivers Shire.

“There’s a particular style of signage that’s sat there for 25 years and are still doing their job,” she said.

“I am pretty upset that there would be changes to have non-standard signage there.”

Cr Brooke Savige (Div 1) said unique embellishments in estates across the region helped create a sense of identity and community.

“We don’t want cookie-cutter developments,” she said.

“Embellishments such as these are subtle ways to create a product that is different, that does create that beautiful sense of community that we’re talking about.”

Cr Sandra Ruck (Div 5) warned replacing special features with standard ones would create a “very boring Moreton city because everyone would look the same”.

Expensive exercise

However, Mr Chemello said it was impossible to replace some street signs like-for-like because the originals did not meet Australian standards.

“The intention of the policy from an officers’ point of view is standardised signage,” he said.

“All these developers put in place attributes of their estates to market their estates.

“To head down the path of us replacing life-for-like across the region is an astronomically expensive exercise for local government to pursue, bearing in mind you will need a sequence of levies if you want to head down the way of not taking it out of general revenue.

“That’s a significant concern…if you head down the path of a very, very expensive asset replacement exercise in an already challenging environment for a growing council.”

Cr Darren Grimwade (Div 11) said when original embellishments were replaced by standard lights and signs, it eroded the character of estates and suburbs.

“You have got a character one, then a non-character one and as you drive down you think ‘this doesn’t look great’ – it feels awkward, it feels yuck and you have got to start wondering if it (should) be like-for-like or whether you just replace the whole lot of them.”

Cr Shipway said residents were frustrated because until now Council was only able to place safety bunting around ailing statement entry points.

“The one thing residents want is for Council to have a clear direction on those because we go out there, we have put bunting fencing up to make it safe and (residents) won’t touch it because they either cut a loss with the developer or they’re in hope that Council will come along and fix it,” she said.

“But it’s on private land, so we do need to walk away with a policy position; it will be a regional policy position, not based divisionally.

“We need to acknowledge it’s important to someone in their street and I understand that because I live in those estates (but) we have to think about the entire region when making these decisions.”
Cr Mick Gillam (Div 8) agreed, saying ratepayers in areas without special street signs and entry “statements” should not bear the cost.

“My question would be why should my residents be subsidising the cost of a fancy one in someone else’s area?,” he said.

Councillors voted to adopt the policy but amended their vote to include a review in six months to allow council officers to explore the possibility of levies for individual estates to maintain special features.

What the policy means

The new policy applies to work on estate embellishments that require maintenance intervention.

It does not include suburb named signs or statements, with Council fully maintaining signs and statements associated with a suburb name.

Estate entry statements on Council land will not be maintained by Council. If a safety issue exists that impacts the community such needing to close a footpath or objects are falling from the structure, Council will make minor repairs up to $5000.

If an estate entry statement reaches the end of its life, and repairs will exceed $5000, it will be flagged for removal.

Under the policy the Divisional councillor will be able to ask residents if they would like to raise money to have the statement repaired or replaced, otherwise Council will remove it.

Estate entry statements on private land will not be maintained by Council.

Council will replace damaged non-standard street blade signs with Australian Standard street blade signs, which have requirements for lettering size and reflectivity.

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