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City seeks public input on updated sign ordinance
The updated City of Turlock Sign Ordinance would not permit the use of sign spinners or any other type of commercial advertising in the public right-of-way or on City-owned property. - photo by Journal file photo

For the past several years, the City of Turlock has been working on updating its sign ordinance, which was originally adopted in 1944. On Thursday, the public will be able to weigh in on the final draft of the ordinance before the Turlock Planning Commission sends it to the City Council for adoption.

A public hearing of the updated sign ordinance will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday at City Hall, and the City is encouraging local business owners and residents to attend the meeting.

“It is imperative that we hear from the community about how they want signs to look in Turlock,” said Mayor Gary Soiseth. “Protecting freedom of speech and the ability to advance community values are equally important goals the new ordinance hopes to achieve.”

The City of Turlock has held 13 public workshops on the sign ordinance since 2011, when the Turlock Chamber of Commerce requested a review of the regulations that cover signage. A 2015 Supreme Court case, “Reed vs. the Town of Gilbert,” added to the City’s reasons for revising its sign ordinance after the Court found that sign regulations may not favor commercial speech over noncommercial speech and must not favor one form of noncommercial speech over another.

The updated ordinance creates a new structure that makes distinctions between regulation of public property and private property and between noncommercial speech and commercial speech. It also establishes criteria to evaluate requests to deviate from the adopted standards.

Highlights from the updated sign ordinance include:

Public property

·         - The use of public right-of-way, like sidewalks, for advertising purposes will be strictly limited to governmental purposes and functions, with the exception of noncommercial speech and the use of A-frame signs in the Downtown Core Overlay District.

·         - Noncommercial signs would have to be handheld or personally attended and could not exceed 12 square feet when attended by one person or 32 sq.ft. when attended by two or more people.

·         - The ordinance does not permit the use of sign spinners or any other type of commercial advertising in the public right-of-way or on City-owned property.

Private property

·        -  Contains maximum sign area allowances similar to those in the current ordinance.

·         - Monument, informational and directional signage would no longer be counted against a business’ maximum sign area.

·         - Businesses would be given a “lifeline” sign size of two feet, as long as the sign fits proportionally within a designated area, called a “sign frame.”

·         - Awning, projecting and commercial flags could be used in lieu of wall signs.

·         - Large retails and industrial centers would have the option to install freeway-oriented pylon signs when the sign district is at least 20 acres in size and has at least 1,000 feet of freeway frontage.

·         - Multi-tenant monument signs would also be permitted and would not count in the maximum sign area for any business.

·         - Billboards and electronic message boards would continue to be prohibited in the City of Turlock.

·         - Exception processes have been incorporated for historic and iconic signs to allow for sign preservation and innovation to accomplish various community goals.

·         - Temporary signs would have to be mounted on the wall of a building.

·        -  Feather signs, sign spinners, animatronic signs and other motorized or air-activated signage would be prohibited.

·         - The amount of time temporary signs can be displayed would be increased from 60 to 90 days in a calendar year, with an additional 60 days for the initial opening of a business.

·         - Existing master sign programs would remain in force, but would be required to come into conformance as they are amended.

The draft ordinance is available online at: