Members of the Oakdale City Council spent over a half-hour at a recent session discussing and debating a property developer’s request to put up an LED sign with animation and graphics on his property at 1625 E. F St, in the city’s east end.
At issue was an appeal of a Planning Commission ruling from local developer George Rose for a 100 sq. ft. ground pole sign for a deep lot that he has plans to develop into an industrial-commercial area.
The area, zoned for “mixed use” does not allow for the type of signage Rose wishes to use and, according to city officials, the city’s sign ordinance is outdated when it comes to current technology and modern signs available to business owners today.
“The sign ordinance is fairly old,” said Public Services Director Thom Clark during the discussion. “It does not recognize (the capability of) LED signs. We don’t have a good way to regulate them because our ordinance is so old.”
Clark identified a part of the city’s ordinance that stated “No sign shall consist of any moving, rotating, or otherwise animated part of any flashing, blinking, fluctuating, or otherwise animated light.”
“The old ordinance doesn’t mesh very well to modern day technology,” Clark said.
Rose said his lot, which sits near a PG&E service lot and the rear of K-Mart near its loading and dumpsters, was only 120 feet wide, but 900 feet deep which allowed for several businesses. Though not on the street front, many businesses would be tucked behind the actual buildings facing East F Street.
“It’s definitely not situated for residential, which is included in its zoning,” Rose said
Rose advised the council that with the LED sign it would allow for rotating messages and displays thus eliminating “signage clutter” as some shopping centers or strip malls currently have.
“The major tenant usually gets sign space at the expense of smaller tenants,” Rose said, referencing the Save Mart and Raley’s shopping centers. “You’ll have one large sign and then everyone else tries to let people know they’re there too with other smaller ones plastered all around it.”
Rose said he has been trying to develop the property for many years but has run into various setbacks from pending annexation, the type of zoning, and now the sign, which could limit tenant occupancy.
“I have questions by potential future tenants asking me ‘How will anyone know we’re there?’ especially if there’s no sign,” Rose said.
He added that the sign could also be used as a “gateway sign” to promote city events such as the Chocolate Festival, Cowboy Museum, concerts in the park, OHS football, and other community interests. He added that the electronic sign was even manufactured in Oakdale.
Councilman Richard Murdoch, a developer himself, said he liked the design of the sign and encouraged the council to act in Rose’s favor.
“If there’s a way to approve it, let’s find a way,” Murdoch said.
City Manager Brian Whitemyer expressed disagreement for an approval stating it would establish a bad precedence for the city.
“It’s prohibitive by the code (as it reads) today,” Whitemyer said. “If we’re able to put this in, what do we want to look like. How are we going to deny someone else?”
Whitemyer said he feared others, naming the Oakdale Saddle Club at the east entrance to town, would want to establish similar signs and the city actually needed to modify or enhance the existing ordinance. He added the sign was not “thematic” in design to what the city had in its specific plan.
“It’s not within that theme,” Whitemyer said.
Taking a stand against approval, Whitemyer said council approval would be a “quick fix” and suggested redesigning the ordinance.
“It’s a Band-Aid, that’s all it is,” Whitemyer said.
Councilman Tom Dunlop said he was aware the sign ordinance had been discussed for revision, but asked staff if they were working on it.
“Our old sign ordinance is old and not worth saving,” Clark said. “A new one is needed but no one is making a move.”
“In Oakdale, we’re in desperate need of commercial businesses,” Dunlop said. “The better way to go about this is to allow a variance, making unique findings with this lot.”
Mayor Pat Paul agreed, stating she wanted the matter “fast tracked” when it was discussed to possibly bring it back for revision.
Rose said he would like to see the matter voted on that evening at the meeting.
The council ultimately voted 5-0, ruling in Rose’s favor on the appeal, and to allow the sign with a variance.