The chair of the Saint John planning advisory committee said it is unusual to have a sign built before approvals are in place. (CBC)

A consultant working for Irving Oil Ltd. has apologized to people from the Red Head area of Saint John, after residents complained of a new seven-metre-high sign they say should never have been erected.

The blue and white illuminated sign marks what has become the main access road to the company's Canaport Crude Receiving Terminal on Red Head Road.

Cheryl Armstrong, a resident of Red Head, told Saint John council on Monday that she was upset by its placement.

"I get to watch the sunset now looking at the Irving sign," said Armstrong, whose property is next to the terminal.

"The sign is huge, it's in a country area, and adjacent to my house. That's basically all I can see is the sign."

The unauthorized sign was posted at an unapproved entrance to the facility, said Armstrong.

'It was a miscommunication, and certainly the company is prepared to apologize for that.' —Rick Turner, Hughes Surveys and Consultants

An emergency access road was paved to make it the terminal's main entrance, although the company did not receive permission from city planners to do the work.

"That's another reason why I'm so angry at this," Armstrong said.

"Because they go ahead and do these things before they get the zoning or permits or anything."

The issue comes down to a miscommunication, according to a consultant working for Irving.

In May, the company applied to have three parcels of land rezoned to address the unapproved road and allow a lighted sign at the entrance, said Rick Turner from Hughes Surveys and Consultants.

When the Canaport LNG facility was constructed, it meant a completely separate entrance would be needed for the nearby crude terminal, said Turner.

The sign went up on July 12 before proper approvals had gone through.

"It was a miscommunication, and certainly the company is prepared to apologize for that," said Turner.

"We'll be at the [future] planning advisory committee meeting as well."

Council voted to withhold a decision on whether to approve a zoning amendment until more questions are answered at the planning advisory committee meeting.

In the meantime, Irving has agreed to turn off the sign's lights until the rezoning application is brought back to the city.